The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Council Members Vow to Fight 'Non-Starter' New Jails in Their Neighborhoods

By  Jeff Mays and James Fanelli | March 31, 2016 5:36pm 

 Cells at Rikers Island Enhanced Supervision unit designed to reduce violence.
Cells at Rikers Island Enhanced Supervision unit designed to reduce violence.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

NEW YORK CITY — The last time the city tried to open a jail on Staten Island in the late 1980s, it set off a war between borough officials and City Hall.

A new battle could be brewing after City Council members responded strongly to DNAinfo New York's exclusive report Thursday that City Hall has identified possible locations on Staten Island and in College Point, among other neighborhoods, to build new jails in an effort to close Rikers Island.

"Any correctional facility in my district or on Staten Island is a non-starter for me," said Councilman Steven Matteo, who represents Staten Island and is the Council's minority leader.

Councilman Joseph Borelli, who represents Rossville, where the city examined the idea of jail site on a tract of land owned by the Department of Correction along the Arthur Kill, is also against the idea.

"Nobody wants to have a revolving door of perpetrators in their community," Borelli said. "There's no question that would have a chilling effect on any neighborhood."

After DNAinfo's story ran, Mayor Bill de Blasio's spokeswoman Monica Klein said the city's priority is to create "a culture of safety in our jails" starting immediately.

"While the City continues to examine whether Rikers Island’s closure is feasible, our focus today remains on reform of the correctional system that will make our jails safer now, and into the future — whether at Rikers or elsewhere," she said.

Another mayor, Ed Koch, took heat in 1987 when he and Staten Island Borough President Ralph Lamberti made a deal in which the city would build a jail for 1,000 inmates at the Rossville site in exchange for not building four homeless shelters in the borough.

But then-Rep. Guy Molinari sued the city over the proposed jail. He also defeated Lamberti in 1989, winning the borough presidency riding a wave of opposition to the jail.

The Koch-Lamberti deal later fell apart during David Dinkins’ term as mayor.  

Staten Island isn't the only neighborhood that would fight a new jail.

"Any attempt by the city to target College Point for a proposed jail site will be met by fierce and complete opposition," said Councilman Paul Vallone, who represents the area. "The days of broken promises and dumping grounds are over for College Point."

The city is looking at land next to the newly opened Police Academy in the Queens neighborhood as a possible location for a jail.

Criminal justice advocates have called for shutting down Rikers Island because of the conditions there, including the level of violence between inmates, documented abuse of prisoners by the guards and substandard facilities and healthcare that has lead to multiple deaths.

Last year, the city reported that more than 1,500 people had been on the island more than a year without being convicted of a crime and another 400 had been there two years without being convicted.

"Many New Yorkers do not realize that we already have jails in our communities," said Janos Marton, director of policy and campaigns for advocacy group JustLeadershipUSA. "We strongly believe that when new detention facilities are built, the community should be involved in what these facilities look like and how they relate to the neighborhood. Detention facilities should be a part of the city's communities, not isolated from them like Rikers Island."