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The Future of Rikers and the Inner Sound

  • The New School, Tishman Auditorium 63 5th Avenue New York, NY 10011 (map)


Ben “Cincere” Wilson, Institute of Transformative Mentoring at the New School

Judge Jonathan Lippman, Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform


Queens Council Member Costa Constantinides

Bronx Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr.

Claire Weisz, WXY Studio


New York City is pursuing an ambitious plan to shut down the jails on Rikers Island by reducing the number of people incarcerated and shifting to borough-based facilites that are closer to the city’s courthouses. Supporters believe that a smaller system will be more fair and just, and that borough facilities will be safer and more accessible to the courts, visitors, service providers, and attorneys. Opponents express concerns about the scope of the plan and the impact of the proposed borough facilities on their surroundings.

But the discussion over Rikers has not focused on the future of the island, which could be repurposed to provide lasting benefits to nearby communities and the entire region. Relocating facilities currently sited in the South Bronx and North Queens to Rikers would eliminate local sources of pollution, open up shorelines for park space, and create space for well-paid green industrial jobs. New waste water treatment facilities on Rikers could prevent 9 billion gallons of sewer overflow into the Long Island Sound every year. New sources of renewable energy could provide environmental, health, and financial benefits for residents across the region. And just as importantly, the opportunity to reimagine the South Bronx and North Queens coastlines could let local communities shape new positive visions for the area.

Join Regional Plan Association, the Independent Commission on Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, and the Center for New York City Affairs to explore how New York City could be transformed by eliminating the jails on Rikers Island and repurposing it for public uses.