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NYC mayor asked to explain delay in building of jail beds in hospitals

The project to build hundreds of hospital beds for people held in city jails is a key part of the “Close Rikers” plan


Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a press conference on Rikers Island.

Photo/Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News

By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — City Council members want Mayor Adams to explain the delays in a project to build hundreds of hospital beds for people held in city jails — a key part of the Close Rikers plan.

A total of 380 additional so-called “therapeutic” beds was funded by the city at Bellevue, Woodhull and North Central Bronx hospitals. But work on the new Bellevue unit is months behind schedule, and the council members say the other two projects also appear to face delays.

In their letter, 14 council members — including the chairs of committees that deal with criminal justice, hospital and health issues — noted that 50% of people in the jails require mental health treatment, 45% have a substance abuse disorder, and hundreds are jailed each day who need medical care.

“It is for this reason that we write to you concerned with the slow pace of development” of the new hospital beds, the council members wrote.

“In recent weeks, it has appeared that the plan is delayed, and that the number of beds targeted for development is decreasing. We write to implore that the development of these housing units be prioritized with great urgency.”

They pointed out that in September 2021 as Brooklyn Borough President, Adams underscored the importance of the beds, recommending “an emergency build-out of off-site secure facilities that include support for inmates who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues.”

The council members suggested the number of beds has been reduced from the original 380 figure and asked the mayor for a timeline and the current total bed capacity for the project and for an explanation of the cause of the delays.

Sources familiar with the projects told the Daily News that a major reason has been last-minute demands for changes by the Correction Department, including an insistence on additional guard posts and separate locker rooms for correction officers and supervisors.

[RELATED: ‘Close Rikers': NYC council speaker to address slowdown in new jail construction]

The roughly 100 new beds at Bellevue were supposed to be completed by December, but now it looks like the project will take up most of 2023. The new medical units in the other two hospitals are delayed even more than a year.

The delays in the hospital projects echo other delays in the Close Rikers plan. While a law passed by the city requires Rikers to be closed by 2027, the Daily News reported earlier in March that the new Brooklyn borough jail may not be completed until 2029.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams will act as chair of the criminal justice committee in Thursday’s hearing on the Correction Department budget where issues around the Close Rikers plan may come up.

NEXT: S.C. hospital fills empty wing with inmates to help avoid closure

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