A City Council committee Wednesday voted to green-light Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $8.7 billion plan to build four new borough-based jails as part of his larger effort to shutter Rikers Island by 2026.
The council’s Land Use Committee broke the measure into two separate votes on the four proposed high-rise lockups. They passed by scores of 12-4 and 11-5.
Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn), Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), Andy King (D-Bronx), Rafael Salamanca (D-Bronx) and Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx) opposed both parts.
However, Salamanca only voted “no” on the piece of the plan that included opening up one of the new jails at the NYPD’s Bronx tow pound in Mott Haven.
Salamanca — who supports closing Rikers — attributed his opposition to de Blasio refusing to commit to shutting down the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, an 800-bed floating barge jail parked off the South Bronx in his district, before the mayor leaves office in 2021.
The barge is considered an “annex” of Rikers that has been plagued with many of the same allegations of inhumane treatment of inmates. The city plans to shut the barge down in 2026.
King questioned whether the move to close the scandal-scarred Rikers prison complex is anything more than a “property grab” to lure real estate developers to the island. He also said closing the prisons there won’t address larger “problems in the criminal justice system.”
On Thursday, the council will vote on the four new jails, planned for every borough except Staten Island. It is expected to overwhelmingly pass.
Of the 51 council members, 10 have said they plan to reject the plan, roughly a dozen others say they’re undecided and the rest plan to vote “yes.”
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