See what Rikers Island could look like when the prison complex closes

Back in 2019, the City Council approved a plan to close the city’s main prison complex on Rikers Island and replace it with four borough-based facilities in lower Manhattan, the South Bronx, downtown Brooklyn and Kew Gardens in Queens. As a result, administration of the island would be transfered from the Department of Correction (DOC) to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) by 2027. 

Just last year, the City Council also passed a number of bills that will allow it to build new energy and waste facilities on premise once the prison closes.

Last week, the Regional Plan Association and Rhode Island School of Design released a report based on the vision of the Renewable Rikers coalition—composed of folks that were formerly incarcerated on Rikers, plus their families and environmental and social justice groups—outlining their plans to transform the area into a green energy center.

Dubbed “A Plan for Renewable Rikers,” the report, which can be found in full right here, also includes a research and training facility for the formerly incarcerated, a wastewater treatment plant and a recycling component. The latter hub could potentially process over 365,000 tons of organic waste each year while also decreasing the amount of pollution currently produces by trucks on the road—that’s in an of itself a huge deal. 

Rikers Island
Rendering: Courtesy of the Regional Plan Association

The wastewater treatment plant, on the other hand, would basically free up over 180 acres of space in Queens and the Bronx currently being used for similar facilities.

As for the new research and training facility, experts are hoping it will provide both educational and work-related opportunities to former prison mates.

All the various aspects of the would-be facility would also generate a vast number of jobs across town, a particularly important note given its focus on previously incarcerated individuals.

“We have an opportunity to transform Rikers Island into a haven for education, training and sustainability,” said Andrea Johnson, assistant professor in the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the Rhode Island School of Design, in an official statement. “The carefully thought out designs we’ve presented in this report show how the entire island can be activated as an energy hub for all of New York City, while freeing large swathes of neighboring boroughs from aging energy infrastructure.”

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