In a three-page resolution, the board struck down the city’s plans and called out the lack of transparency throughout the process.
The proposal calls for a 29-story, 1.9 million-square-foot jail complex large enough to hold about 1,600 detainees to Kew Gardens near Borough Hall on Queens Boulevard.
In addition to the jail, the city proposed a specialized medical annex in the Queens location. While there will be clinics in each borough-based jail, the Queens site would have a 100-bed, 125,000-square-foot medical facility to treat patients from all four borough-based jails.
“This proposal, designed without communication with the affected communities, will quite simply overwhelm and destroy the small, historic residential neighborhood of Kew Gardens and also adversely affect the adjacent community of Briarwood,” the resolution stated. “Secondly, starting the ULURP clock, before the New York State legislature can address comprehensive criminal justice reform is putting the cart before the horse.”
The city hopes to certify the jail plan on March 25 and start the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), but the Queens Advisory Committee has argued that it’s too soon and the plan is far from finalized.
“I’ve just never heard of certification from a concept,” said Sylvia Hack, who was a member of the an advisory committee working with the city on the plan.
In a recent meeting with staff from the Mayor’s Office, committee member Andrea Crawford argued that before the city thinks about building borough-based jails, they should firstly address criminal justice reform as a priority.
Community Board 9’s resolution also accused the city of being disingenuous about community engagement.
In the latest Queens Advisory Committee meeting held on February 28, the Mayor’s Office did not invite the general public and several reporters were asked to leave.
Aside from the few meetings of the Queens Advisory Committee, there were no other sessions held for the general public.
“Such meetings never took place, were never advertised, never sent to the Community Board nor to any of the existing civic groups in Kew Gardens nor to the other affected community, Briarwood,” the resolution reads.
Community Board 9’s decision is advisory and their recommendation cannot stop the plan.
Recently, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio voicing their concerns with closing Rikers Island because the neighborhoods that would house the replacement jails were not consulted properly.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, however, has not shifted her stance from last year after the mayor announced the proposal for the four borough-based jails. In a statement, she supported the plan, suggesting that the jail would be beneficial for the nearby communities.
"The new facility in Kew Gardens will bring significant economic development and provide hundreds of new parking spaces for the community,” Koslowitz said.