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NYC Mulls Plans for Downtown Jail Complex to Help Close Rikers Island

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The Daily News has an exclusive scoop about plans to build a new jail in downtown Manhattan.

The spot at 80 Centre. St. is an attractive location for Bill de Blasio and his administration in their plans to find a place for inmates as the city starts closing down the notorious Rikers Island. The jail will be one high rise in a prime location that New Yorkers most certainly won’t covet.

Mayoral aides met last week with community leaders to discuss the plan and try keeping it under wraps out of anticipation of its unpopularity.

The building that currently contains the marriage bureau would be completely emptied and redone, sources told The Daily News. The current building is nine stories and historic, so in order to get a high rise jail, developers would have to build on top of the current structure, which would essentially provide a base for a 40-story building, sources added.

The mayor’s office confirmed to The Daily News that the plans were real and something they want to make happen.

A spokeswoman for de Blasio, Natalie Grybauskas, said they “are considering two potential options for a facility in Manhattan as part of our plan to close Rikers Island, and are engaging with the community to gather input.”

The Daily News couldn’t get any materials from the spokeswoman though, leaving the public to mostly speculate about the details and discussions had in the meeting between aides and community leaders last week, though it appears that affordable housing could actually be worked into the complex from what some community leaders indicated.

The location was chosen because original plans to expand the current jail downtown wouldn’t work out correctly.

“They have a problem,” former Correction Commissioner Martin Horn said. “The buildings that they want to design will have difficulty fitting into the zoning envelopes of the existing jails.”

Modern jails tend to have more innovative designs that even include spaces for counseling. The jail may also have its own medical unit, and the city will also have to figure out how to best house men and women separately.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin thinks this plan will provide her area with affordable housing that it needs, especially after past failures.

“Today, we are presented with an opportunity to take the rest of that land back to create more affordable housing, cultural amenities and much needed parking for Chinatown,” Chin said in statement. “We must maximize this opportunity by ensuring that all voices are heard as part of this process.”

Some community leaders are upset that they were not told about the proposal.

Aixa Torres, Tenant Association President of Smith Houses in Lower Manhattan, was one of many community leaders who were not informed of the proposal and not happy about the feeling of not being represented and included. “Definitely nobody from public housing got invited to the meeting,” he said.

By: Wayne Hoenes

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