What You Should Know

Why I am Opposed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Plan to Close Rikers Island by Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.

You should know that after reading an editorial that was published on October 13, 2019 in the New York Post titled “The close-Rikers crusaders left reason behind a long time ago” I have decided to explain why I am going to cast my vote on Thursday against the construction of prisons in four boroughs and the closing of Rikers.  

First, I would like to know why in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans, Staten Island is not included in the construction of new prisons in New York City. The four other boroughs are included, while there is a lot of potential space in Staten Island.  

Second: As of today, no one knows what is to be done with the prime piece of real estate where Rikers Island currently sits? There has been an incredible lack of transparency by Mayor de Blasio’s Administration about that valuable property, and no public hearings about that government-owned piece of land.  

Third: Why does anyone think that housing inmates in skyscraper jails will ever facilitate the rehabilitation of incarcerated people?  

According to the Post editorial:   “So the city still has time to consider alternatives, like the rebuild-at-Rikers alternative drawn up by the architectural firm of William Bialosky and Partners…. Bialosky points out that the Rikers lot offers something pretty valuable for building a truly humane jail: space. Why pack detainees into high-rise buildings when you can use existing ones for a more diffused, campus-like environment incorporating better access to daylight and greenery? The 45-page prospectus even calls for plots where inmates can grow crops.”

There is ample space at Rikers Island for all sorts of activities, none of which will be possible in any high-rise cages. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to close Rikers will not improve the lives of New York’s inmates.

My dear reader, don’t be fooled. 

Incarcerated people need programs to help them to become rehabilitated so they can return to their families and loved ones, re-enter society and get jobs, and not be tempted to a life of recidivism. Our focus should not be how to prosper real estate developers so they can create new correctional center complexes in our boroughs.  

You should also know that Mayor de Blasio somehow intends to reduce the number of inmates down to 3,300, and he has built that dream into his plan, giving no consideration to any possible crime wave.  

It is also important for you to keep in mind that these proposed plans are not expected to going to go into effect until 2026, otherwise known as “the out years,” in the distant future when Mayor Bill de Blasio will no longer be in office.    

Ladies and gentlemen, I urge my colleagues in the City Council to reconsider where our focus needs to be: not on new jails, and not on the closing of Rikers Island.  

I am Councilman Rev. Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.

Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz represents District 18 in Bronx County.

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