NYC mayor names new DOC commissioner
Mayor Adams said he interviewed several people for the post, but Lynelle Maginley-Liddie stood out for her “emotional intelligence”
By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Mayor Adams on Friday named a new correction commissioner, Lynelle Maginley-Liddie, who takes the helm of the agency that operates Rikers Island and other city jails as momentum for its takeover by the federal courts builds.
Maginley-Liddie, the second Black woman chosen to lead the agency, was the first deputy commissioner under her predecessor, Louis Molina, who is taking a newly-created role as assistant deputy mayor under Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks.
Adams said he interviewed several people for the post, but Maginley-Liddie stood out for her “emotional intelligence.”
“She’s the right leader for the right time,” he said. “Lynelle has played a significant role in the progress we have made over the last 23 months at DOC. She is a steady hand, who will continue the good work of (Molina).”
Maginley-Liddie said she’s ready to face the challenge of the possible federal takeover, which will play out in the courts over the next several months or longer.
“I humbly accept this position knowing the complexities which lie ahead,” Maginley-Liddie said. She promised to work with the current federal court-appointed monitor, Steve Martin, who is tracking violence and staff use of force at Rikers Island and other city jails.
“We are going to work with the monitor. We have made significant progress under this administration and we will continue to build on the momentum,” Miginley-Liddie said.
Lawyers for detainees filed a motion in Manhattan Federal Court on Nov. 17 arguing that the city is incapable of fixing the jails, and a federal court-appointed receiver should be named to oversee the system.
On the same day, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office filed a letter confirming it also backs receivership. Attorney General Letitia James and public defenders, jail rights groups, nonprofit organizations and former city officials filed amicus briefs in favor of receivership on Dec. 1 .
Five members of the nine-member city Board of Correction also back a receiver. Three other members of the board appear to oppose a takeover, and a new appointee to the board has not stated a position on the issue.
Martin, the federal violence monitor, has repeatedly pointed out the Correction Department’s “pattern of persistent interference, obstruction, and lack of transparency.”
Mayor Adams said Friday he sent Martin a list of correction commissioner candidates for review. The mayor also underscored his belief that things have improved and a receiver is unnecessary.
“We want to show good faith and good communication,” he said. “We don’t want to give the impression that communication has eroded to the point where we cant communicate.
“We can’t continue to kick the can down the road. Show me where there’s been a successful receivership in the country,” the mayor said.
Added city Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix : “We don’t see what a receiver can do better than what the city has done.”
On Friday, the monitoring team endorsed the appointment of a new commissioner, saying in a letter, she “appears to reflect an attempt by the City to alter its approach by prioritizing transparency and by making a renewed commitment to consultation and collaboration.”
The Legal Aid Society said, “The current deteriorated state of the Department of Correction is well past the ability of a single commissioner to correct, and only an independent body in the form of a receiver can secure the necessary systemic changes.”
Correction officers union president Benny Boscio lauded the “productive” relationship he has had with Maginley-Liddie.
“Obviously, we are living in one of the most challenging times in the history of our agency and these difficult times call for strong leadership from someone who knows our jail system very well,” he said.
Maginley-Liddie will be challenged on a second front — the legally mandated closure of Rikers Island in 2027, which is coupled with construction of four new jails at a cost of roughly $9 billion. A new Brooklyn jail — the first scheduled to be completed — is already two years behind schedule.
Adams described some conditions in the jails as “deplorable.”
“We have found ourselves in this space where we can’t use capital dollars because of the Close Rikers plan,” he said.
In tapping Maginley-Liddie, Adams passed over a number of current and former correction officials with deep knowledge of jail operations.
One of those was Charles Daniels, who Molina brought in in September as senior deputy commissioner. Daniels had been director of prisons in Nevada until he fell afoul of Gov. Steve Sisolak over a prison escape.
On Oct. 23, Daniels got into an argument with Martin and threatened to sue him, a Nov. 8 monitor report said.
One of Maginley-Liddle’s responsibilities as first deputy commissioner has been oversight of the Health Management Division, which tracks officers out on sick leave. In an Oct. 28, 2022 report, the monitor said an independent review of the division found “significant mismanagement and corruption, poor staff supervision and staff practices.”
In a subsequent report July 10 , the monitor noted the division embarked on a “significant overhaul to reduce abuse” and things had improved.
As the second Black woman to serve as correction commissioner, Maginley-Liddie was preceded by Jacqueline McMickens, who served in the post from 1984 to 1986 under Mayor Ed Koch .
Maginley-Liddle immigrated to the U.S. from Antigua 20 years ago to go to law school, she said. She was a lawyer in private practice before she was hired by the then-Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann in 2015 as an agency attorney making $89,000, city payroll records show.
She was promoted to executive agency counsel in 2017 and her salary rose to $234,300 in 2021, city payroll records show.
Her husband Michael Liddie is a senior policy adviser at the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services, according to his LinkedIn page. He previously worked at the Correction Department from 2015 to 2018 as director of human resources, the page states.
The couple lives in Manhattan and has two children.