New York City Council to vote on closing Rikers Island

The plan to close Rikers Island by 2026 and replace it with four smaller, borough-based jails in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens is now in the hands of the New York City Council.

A vote was expected to take place Thursday.

Supporters say it’s a step closer to reversing decades of mass incarceration which has sent African-Americans and Latinos to prison at disproportionate rates.

In 2017, the de Blasio administration set the plan to close Rikers Island into action, arguing that the $8.7B plan would reduce the city’s jailed population and create safer and more modern detention facilities allowing those who are incarcerated to be in their communities closer to family and resources.

But some members of the City Council say they still aren’t sure which way they’ll vote, while some residents say “not in my backyard.”

“How does closing Rikers island fix the issues we have in the criminal justice system?” said Councilman Andy King at a rally outside City Hall Wednesday. 

The new jails will have a daily capacity of 3,300 inmates. Rikers Island currently has about 7,000 inmates. 

New York’s jail population is plummeting, though many worry the city is boxing itself in if crime were to spike or more jail cells were suddenly needed.

The City Council needs a total of 26 votes in order for the proposal to be approved.

Currently, seven council members are undecided, including Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn, and Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx, who says he is trying to negotiate the benefits of the jail versus the impact it will have on his community.