As the fight for improved jail facilities continues, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams unveiled his plans for a new proposal for borough-based jailing facilities and the proposed expansion of the existing facility in Brooklyn at 275 Atlantic Avenue. This comes after part of a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure response to applications submitted by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services. After months of dialogue with local stakeholders and activists, Adams responded with a public hearing where several attended.
In Adams’ recommendation, which was submitted to the New York City Department of City Planning, he approved a proposed site of 275 Atlantic Avenue as the home of the new facility. There will be a maximum of 900 beds in the facility, as well as the formation of a community advisory committee comprised of representatives from the offices of local elected officials, Brooklyn Community Board 2, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, and others. “We have listened closely to all stakeholders throughout this process, and have put forward a recommendation that balances the needs of the community with the imperative of making our criminal justice system more humane for all, something all sides have agreed is critical,” said Adams.
Several New Yorkers have been critical of the city’s stance on leaving Rikers Island open, one of the most infamous detention centers in the country. This comes after years of public outcry, more especially after the death of Kalief Browder, a young Bronx man who committed suicide after serving three years at Rikers while awaiting trial for allegedly stealing a backpack. Many believe his death is linked to the physical and mental abuse Browder suffered at Rikers. “What we are proposing advances the city’s goal of closing Rikers while providing real benefits to the surrounding community,” he said. “Most importantly, it offers a roadmap for ending the cycle of incarceration that plagues our underinvested communities. We urge the city to adopt these recommendations, and to work in close consultation with the community, so we can move forward in a responsible way.”
On the contrary, Adams issued a disapproval with conditions on the city’s proposed special zoning permit to facilitate the construction of a jail facility. Adams recommended;
That the maximum height be reduced to 235 feet, and the base height along Atlantic Avenue to 120 feet;
That the use of ground-floor space be restricted to community cultural uses, instead of retail, at an affordable rent;
That the entrance/exit of the sally port to the facility be combined with initial parking garage circulation, then further separated within the facility
That State Street between Boerum Place and Smith Street be converted to a pedestrian plaza with limited vehicle use;
That the city incorporate environmental features such as passive house design, rain gardens or others, and;
That the certificate of occupancy for the new facility require demolition of comparable capacity at Rikers Island.
Not only did Adams make these recommendations, but he also called on the city to consider reforms that would further reduce the city’s incarcerated population and also expand the supervised release program for non-violent offenders, which allows defendants to await trial at home and be supervised by an assigned social worker. He also stated that the city should screen all inmates for learning disabilities and introduce educational programs for all individuals, regardless of age. Adams’ recommendations are a way to cut the pipeline-to-prison for millions of New Yorkers. He also recommended for the city to incorporate general wellness initiatives for post-release success, such as nutrition education, plant-based diets and yoga. Adams has been a vocal leader for change in the prison system and also the importance of re-entry programs for convicted individuals since taking office in 2014.