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The city is moving forward with its controversial prison based in the borough of Kew Gardens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday, June 25 that construction of the parking lot and community space is underway next to the new prison which will stand next to Borough Hall and the Queens Criminal Courthouse.
The construction marks the first major activity of the Boroughs Prison Program, an $ 8.3 billion effort to build four new, smaller and more humane prisons in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx to replace the prison complex of Rikers Island.
“Today we are moving closer to our goal of a fairer and more equitable prison system for all New Yorkers,” said de Blasio. “The closure of Rikers Island will make our city stronger and fairer, and I am proud to propose a system that better reflects the values of this city. “
The new 105-foot structure will house a 25,000 square foot multi-use community space on two levels, as well as more than 600 public parking spaces. The structure is being built on the west side of the existing parking lot at Union Turnpike between 126th Street and 132nd Street.
The east side of the parking lot will remain open during construction, providing 140 parking spaces for the community until construction is complete in early 2023.
The adjacent Queens Detention Complex will begin to be demolished during construction of the garage, and then the new Queens Jail will be built on the east side of the parking lot and the former site of the Queens Detention Complex.
“This project is part of a unique, multi-generational opportunity to build a smaller, more humane justice system that includes four facilities based on dignity and respect, providing better connections and space for families, lawyers, the courts, medical and mental. healthcare, education, therapy programs and service providers, ”said Jaimie Torres-Springer, commissioner of the New York City Design and Construction Department. “This is an important milestone in the borough’s prison program, and we continue to seek and assess candidates for the design-build teams that will create the other facilities in the program. “
The 886-bed Queens Prison will be designed with a maximum height of 195 feet and will house inmates in a separate facility within the prison. The district prison plan was approved by the city council in October 2019.
“The start of major construction on the Kew Gardens Borough’s new prison program is exciting news and something we have been expecting a lot since Mayor de Blasio pledged to shut down the dilapidated facility on Rikers Island,” said Corrections Department Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. “This means that we are a little closer to having modern facilities which are much better in all respects than what exists today. The borough’s prison plan will create state-of-the-art, fully air-conditioned buildings and a more humane environment. It will also help us achieve our goal of creating the kind of environment each of us would want if someone we love was incarcerated. “
Kew Gardens Prison encountered strong opposition from the community, but was approved following a thorough, multi-stage public review process, including design workshops with ward leaders, civic associations and community councils.
“The news of the progress being made in dismantling the Queens Detention Complex is a critical step towards implementing the Defender’s plans to completely shut down Rikers Island by 2007 or before,” said Brandon J. Holmes, Co-Director of Freedom Agenda at the Urban Justice Center. “Achieving this important milestone before the mayor de Blasio leaves will help ensure the permanent demolition of the 10 Rikers prisons, the long-term divestment from mass incarceration and a complete transformation of our criminal justice system and our responses to the violence. We owe it to the formerly incarcerated New Yorkers who built this movement to shut down Rikers Island and improve confinement conditions for all those who remain incarcerated.