Shutdown plans for the George Motchan Detention Center on Rikers Island were announced yesterday, in what City officials are calling a major step forward in their effort to close the infamous prison complex. The detention center is one of nine on the 413-acre island, with a current capacity of 600 inmates. The stated reason for closing the complex is that the city wants to create a smaller, safer, and more ethical justice system. Rather than dedicating an island to the prison complex, officials hope to build smaller detention facilities around the Five Boroughs, which also opens up the possibility of eventually redeveloping Rikers Island.
For now, the exact specifics of what will come after the shuttering of Rikers Island remains a mystery. The City has not made any announcements regarding specific plans. Speculated ideas include creating an entire residential neighborhood, or making a large public park, with an expansion of La Guardia Airport another leading candidate. As one might expect, a few architectural firms have already released proposals. FXFOWLE’s proposal for an expanded La Guardia received some significant attention.
WXY Studio also made a plan for a manufacturing center.
Perkins + Will proposed an idea of creating an island for bike-related buildings. This would include a rehabilitation facility with adapted bikes for the disables and a velodrome. The landmass would be renamed to “Bikers Island”.
Curtis + Ginserg Architects proposed creating a large city-block neighborhood, with a park near the airport, and a trail encompassing the entire island.
Few details are available regarding these plans, simply because it’s unclear if any of them will be feasible. We do know that Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown interest in the airport proposal. Still, it’s hard to imagine what might come of this enormous opportunity.
The City’s news also coincides with another record-breaking headline. Last month, for the first time in three decades, the average daily population of all NYC prisoners was below 9,000. On New Years Day, there were 8,705 prisoners in City jails, 6,793 of which were on Rikers. This comes with nationally declining crime rates, and New York now has the lowest incarceration rate of any big city in the country.
The first prison building is set to close at an undetermined date during the summer of 2018, with plans to mothball the facility in perpetuity.