Robert Holden pushes for new Rikers jail commission in NYC

A Queens pol is pushing new legislation to require the city to explore building a new jail complex on Rikers Island.

Democratic Councilman Robert Holden wants to create an 11-person commission to look at the cost of overhauling the island’s notorious jail facility in favor of a more humane modernized complex.

He introduced a bill Thursday to create the commission, the members of which would be appointed by the mayor and City Council.

Mayor Adams has promised to deliver on his predecessor Bill de Blasio’s plan to shutter Rikers Island’s jail complex and replace it with four smaller high-rise lockups in each of the city’s boroughs but Staten Island by 2027.

Surging construction costs, project delays, complaints from the affected communities, and a jail population of about 5,500 detainees that far exceeds the planned capacity of 3,544 beds has left the blueprint approved by the City Council in 2019 vulnerable.

Councilman Robert Holden wants to look at the cost of building new, more humane jail facilities on the island.
Helayne Seidman

“It would be in the mayor’s best interest to weigh all options,” Holden told The Post. “The way we’re headed with our jail population there’s no way we’ll be able fit everyone in the borough-based jails.”

Cost is a huge factor, Holden said.

The cash-strapped city has $8.2 billion budgeted to build the four new jails, but construction industry sources estimate project costs to rise to at least $10-$15 billion.

Previous Mayor Bill de Blasio planned to shutter Rikers Island, above, and replace it with smaller facilities throughout the boroughs.
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio planned to shutter Rikers Island and replace it with smaller facilities throughout the boroughs.

A plan to build a new jail complex on Rikers being pushed by some elected officials, including Holden, and the city’s correction officers union is estimated to cost about $5.6 billion to build. It would include a hospital, athletic fields, work-training centers, a farming area, ferry service and a sun-filled atrium. 

Adams’ spokesman Fabien Levy said the Mayor’s Office will review the legislation, but noted Rikers must be jail-free by 2027 under current law, so work on the borough-based jails projects is currently “proceeding.”

“We have engaged deeply with the communities every step of the way, and we are committed to continuing to work with them to limit any disruption from these projects,” he said.

A spokesperson for Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said the speaker remains in support of closing Rikers and replacing it with a “more modern and effective borough-based system.”

Holden, right, alongside Mayor Eric Adams.
Holden (right) appears alongside Mayor Eric Adams.

The city’s jail system, which has been plagued for decades by poor living conditions and violence against detainees and guards, is currently facing the possibility of being taken over by a federal court.