'Close Rikers': NYC council speaker to address slowdown in new jail construction
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams underscored that Rikers has to be closed by 2027 in her state-of-the-city speech
By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — In an unusual move, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams herself will preside over next week’s committee hearing on the Correction Department‘s preliminary budget — the latest in a series of efforts by her to underscore the importance of the Close Rikers plan.
Adams’ decision to preside over the March 23 hearing comes after the revelation that the planned completion date of a new Brooklyn jail may blow through the statutorily mandated Aug. 2027 shutdown of the jails on Rikers Island by two years.
Mayor Adams has been accused of “slow-walking the closure,” but he doubled down Wednesday saying detainees could “occupy” a half-built structure.
On Thursday, she underscored the council’s commitment to making the 2027 deadline, noting work on the borough-based jails began in 2022.
“Any borough-based jail contract must align with the 2027 mandate for Rikers’ closure,” Adams said in the joint statement with Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.
“The inconsistent statements from the Administration over the past days have unacceptably created questions where there should be none – Rikers must close by 2027 and we cannot allow it to continue undermining public safety across our city.”
Rivera, who as the chair of the Council’s Criminal Justice Committee would normally lead the preliminary budget hearing for DOC, will be out on parental leave. But the Speaker herself pinch-hitting for a committee chair is unusual.
“Any other committee member could chair the hearing, but the Speaker chose to do it herself because the close Rikers issue is a priority for her,” an aide to the speaker said.
In their statement, Speaker Adams, and Rivera, referenced the wave of 2021 and 2022 deaths and called out the city’s “failure” to deal with a growing population of people with serious mental health problems.
“The city’s failure to effectively address the mental health crisis has allowed Rikers to become a de facto mental health facility without the appropriate services,” they said.
“Half of its population has a mental health diagnosis, too often worsened by cycling through the criminal legal system. The staff and New Yorkers detained there are subjected to continuing levels of violence and trauma that perpetuate cycles of harm. This cannot continue.”
Adams will also speak Thursday at a City Hall event where advocates will urge Mayor Adams to accelerate closure plans.
On March 8, Adams underscored that Rikers Island has to be closed by 2027 in her state-of-the-city speech, telling the audience her mom, a retired correction officer, told her long ago “Baby, they should have closed that place a long time ago.”
“Rikers is no longer serving our city,” she said during the speech.
“Week after week, we see someone lose their life on Rikers at levels that are nearly unprecedented. This is inhumane. We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to tragedy or ignore the pain this inflicts on families and communities.”