Hundreds of people took to Queens Boulevard outside of Queens Borough Hall on Saturday, Apr. 13 in protest of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed plan to replace the notorious Rikers Island jail complex with four borough-based community jails. The Queens borough jail is now in the works, set to be built in Kew Gardens, according to de Blasio.
The protest was organized by a husband and wife duo, Nancy and Eric Horn, who are part of the grassroots movement, No Kew Gardens Jail.
Flyers promoting the “No Kew Gardens Jail” protest have recently been displayed at the Union Turnpike and Kew Gardens train station, a highly trafficked spot for St. John’s commuters.
The 10-year plan to close the jail complex on Rikers Island was announced in March 2017. The purpose of this initiative is to reduce the number of inmates within Rikers Island and spread them out amongst smaller jails within Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
The proposed location for the Kew Gardens jail would be located at 126-02 82nd Ave which would re-open and redevelop the existing Queens Detention Complex next to the Queens Criminal Courthouse, less than two miles from the St. Johns campus. It would be approximately 27 stories tall and include around 1,437 beds, according to an article by the Queens Courier.
The affected communities would include the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park as covered by the Community Board 9 and the neighboring communities of Rego Park and Forest Hills, covered by Community Board 6.
The Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) is a system in which the community boards and borough presidents get to provide advisory opinions. Many have expressed their thoughts against the plan, including Community Board 9, as they have voted on a unanimous “thumbs down.” This, however, only serves as advisory input which leaves Mayor de Blasio, the City Planning Commission and the City Council to decide later on.
There will be more opportunities for the people to be heard.
Concerns have led many to believe that the jail plan is a “done deal,” as mentioned by the independent, nonprofit news outlet, The City.
The four community boards of the affected neighborhoods of Mott Haven, Boerum Hill, Kew Gardens and Chinatown have until May 25 to provide their advisory inputs and then it will head to the borough presidents.