Republican and Democratic candidates vying for the vacant City Council seat representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and parts of Bath Beach and Bensonhurst split along party lines when it comes to Mayor de Blasio’s recent decision to close Rikers Island.
Last week, de Blasio published a 10-year-plan to close the infamous correctional facility. His “smaller, safer, fairer” trajectory proposes to reduce the overall Rikers jail population – currently at about 9,400 – to about 5,000 in 10 years.
“Once the jail population reaches 5,000, the City will be in a position to close Rikers Island for good. Doing so will depend on the desires of neighborhoods and their elected officials, as even a jail population of 5,000–significantly smaller than the jail population today–will still require identifying and developing appropriate sites for new jails as well as renovating existing facilities in the boroughs,” said de Blasio when he rolled out his roadmap plan.
Given this plan and statement, KCP asked the candidates in the 43rd District City Council Race what do they think of the mayor’s plan to close Riker’s Island, and whether they would agree to opening a small facility in the district to house inmates awaiting trial.
The following are their responses:
Republican Party Candidate Liam McCabe: “I do not agree with Mayor de Blasio’s plan to shut down Rikers Island and spread out the jail’s population across the five boroughs,” said GOP Candidate Liam McCabe, noting the expected $11.3-$13.9 billion expected cost. “Yet again, Mayor de Blasio is making unreasonable, expensive, potentially dangerous decisions for the City.”
Republican Party Candidate Lucretia Regina-Potter: “As a potential City Council member in the 43rd Council District, I am strongly opposed to the Mayor’s decision to close Riker’s Island and place correctional facilities in many New York City neighborhoods.
“Members of any community deserve safety, respect, and the right to enjoy their neighborhood. Placing correctional facilities in communities will degrade neighborhoods, decrease property values, and cause urban blight.”
Republican Party Candidate Bob Capano: “I do not agree with the Mayor’s decision to close Riker’s Island. Rikers Island is surrounded by high fences, lots of barbed wire, swift currents, and has one way on or off, a bridge. That’s what anyone with common sense would call a good location for a jail. If someone escapes from Rikers Island, a dangerous prisoner is still contained on a heavily secured island and not roaming the streets of our neighborhoods.”
Republican Party Candidate John Quaglione: “I believe I bring a platform that, when I am elected, will improve public safety in our community and our City. I strongly oppose the Mayor’s plan to close Riker’s Island and opening up jails throughout our City.
Democratic Party Candidate Nancy Tong: “Drastic action needs to be taken to address the unsafe conditions at this [Rikers] facility. I agree that it must be closed, but there must be smaller prisons throughout the boroughs to replace them for those who must be remained in a prison setting.”
Democratic Party Candidate Justin Brannan: “I think we can all agree that our criminal justice system needs reform and the proposal to close Rikers is a good way to start that process in earnest.
“As I understand it, the Lippman plan [a plan the City Council put out prior to de Blasio’s plan] is designed to place prison populations in local community jail facilities in order to cut down on transportation costs and improve the overall court process. This would make the Detention Complex in downtown Brooklyn the logical place to house a reduced inmate population. Housing inmates in the 43rd Council District is not part of the plan. Our community is also is too far away to provide the kind of access to courts and lower transportation costs the plan is designed to address.”
Democratic Party Candidate Vince Chirico: “Rikers Island must be closed, much earlier than the 10 years proposed by the mayor. It’s also important to ensure that the hardworking men and women of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association are able to maintain their jobs throughout this process.”
Democratic Party Candidate Kevin Peter Carroll: “I support the current plan to close Rikers. As for support in the 43rd, I think an extensive hearing process needs to be put forward to find out the best locations for the new correctional facilities. Once that process is complete and issues a report I would give my opinion based on the results.