THE BRONX — The city is working on a $300 million plan to move 16-and 17-year-old inmates off Rikers Island to improve access to treatment programs, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The plan — which is expected take at least four years after going through the city’s arduous land use approval process — would move the juveniles to the currently ACS-run Horizon Juvenile Center at 560 Brook Ave. in Melrose.
“When you’re a teenager in trouble with the law, it’s not too late to get on the right path — and we need to provide the right environment to help that happen,” the mayor said.
“That’s why providing therapeutic, age-appropriate housing for adolescents waiting for trial is one of our chief priorities, and today we’re proud to announce we’re taking a clear step toward moving 16 and 17-year-olds off of Rikers. We’ll be working with the community and elected officials on this important effort every step of the way.”
Horizon would provide programs like job development, therapy and larger, renovated classrooms, according to the mayor's office.
There are currently 188 juveniles between 16 and 17 years old on Rikers Island.
By the time the new facility is finished the city expects there to be about 130 youth who need to be housed.
The plan would also renovate the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn to house all adolescents younger than 16 who are in ACS custody.
The Horizon facility would be re-assigned to ACS supervision if the Raise the Age legislation were passed, according to the mayor's office.
Horizon would also have a wing for young people who have committed less serious offenses to keep them separated from youth who are accused of committing more serious crimes.
Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., whose district covers Melrose, said he is strongly in favor of moving adolescents off of Rikers Island.
"I went to visit Rikers last week. I visited the adolescents," he said. "They’re living in horrible conditions, horrendous conditions, and I totally agree that we need to figure out a way to get these 16- and 17-year-olds out of Rikers."
However, he said he is somewhat concerned about using Horizon as the site, given that it would involve moving some of its current occupants to Brooklyn, making it harder for their families to see them.
Moving adolescents from Rikers to Horizon could be a good idea, but Salamanca has to make sure his constituents would support it first, he said.
"I have to have a public hearing," he said. "I need to go out to the community and see what the community wants. Is this something that the community is in favor of?"