During his final week presiding over City Hall, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has revealed the six teams in the running to design and build a quartet of “modern, smaller, humane” jail towers that will be realized in each borough save for Staten Island.
The four borough-based jails will collectively replace the infamous Rikers Island complex in the East River between Queens and the Bronx. In October 2019, the New York City Council voted to permanently shutter Rikers Island by 2026 although that timeframe has been pushed back by at least a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors. A news release distributed yesterday by the Mayor’s Office reconfirmed that the closure of Rikers Island is set for 2027. If that holds true, the violent and chaos-plagued facility, which is now facing down another coronavirus surge, will close a full decade after de Blasio first released his Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island plan. (Rikers Island isn’t home to a single jail per se but ten major facilities; eight of them will close as part of the $8.3 billion plan along with three other city jails including the Manhattan Detention Complex.)
As detailed in yesterday’s announcement from the Mayor’s Office and the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the six design-build teams to be reviewed and approved by the city had each submitted a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ) and will now move forward in the process by submitting responses to a Request for Proposals (RFP). That will be to provide further insight into their respective approaches for “designing and constructing the new facilities, including how the team will achieve the City’s vision for building humane facilities and innovative approaches to ensure efficient, cost-effective construction,” per the city. The “financial capacity, experience, design-build approach, and past performance” of each team was evaluated by a specialized panel during the SOQ process.
“We had an exceptional response from the industry given the size and scope of this program,” said Tom Foley, Acting Commissioner of the DDC in a statement. “The response gives us further confidence that we will be able to deliver on the promise of a more humane justice system for New York City, on-time and on-budget. We were particularly impressed with the teams’ commitment to the values and goals of the Borough Based Jails program.”
The total inmate capacity spread across all four future high-rise jails will be no more than 3,300. The maximum capacity at Rikers Island is roughly 15,000 individuals.
Below are the six firms/teams—one each for Manhattan and Queens and two each for Brooklyn and the Bronx—that will engage in the RFP process along with details of established project timelines as provided by the city:
Manhattan: A joint venture led by Gilbane Building Company and the Alberici Corporation will respond to the RFP, issued just last week, with the final submission due in the fall of 2022; following response review and contract negotiations, the project is expected to move into the design and construction phases late next year.
Queens: An RFP will be issued to the Leon D. DeMatteis Construction Corp next summer; work on the project is slated to commence in the spring of 2023.
Brooklyn: Next spring, an RFP will be issued to two teams selected through the SOQ process: joint ventures led by Lend Lease Corporation and Halmar International and another led by Tutor Perini Corporation. Work on the Brooklyn facility is anticipated to commence in late 2022/early 2023.
The Bronx: Like with the Brooklyn site, RFPs will be issued to two teams vying for the Bronx project: Transformative Reform Group, LLC, comprised of SLSCO and Sciame Construction, and Cauldwell Wingate 2022 Company, LLC. Following the selection of a team, work is expected to commence in the summer of 2023.
As further detailed by the city, major site preparation work at each respective, courthouse-adjacent site will already be well underway throughout the RFP process including environmental remediation at the former site of Lincoln Hospital in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx and the razing of existing structures and erecting of temporary “swing spaces” that per the city will “facilitate the transfer of detainees for court appearances during construction” at the Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn sites. Contracts for site prep/demolition work were awarded earlier this month.
The Department of Corrections will take over the four sites in 2027.
The Bronx facility will be built in Mott Haven at the site of the old Lincoln Hospital on 141st Street, which is now home to an NYPD tow pound. In Brooklyn, the new jail will replace the current Brooklyn House of Detention, an eyesore of a tower looming over Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. In Queens, the new jail will replace the demolished Queens Detention Center in Kew Gardens and be joined by an adjacent community center-slash-parking structure already under construction at an existing parking lot at Union Turnpike between 126th Street and 132nd Street. As for Manhattan, that new facility, originally planned for 80 Centre Street, will now replace the Manhattan Detention Center at 125 White Street in the heart of the city’s civic complex in Chinatown. Although the move to close Rikers is a widely popular one, Blasio’s plans for carceral construction projects in the above neighborhoods have been met with considerable local backlash from elected officials and residents alike as well as legal action.
As recently detailed by the New York Times, Mayor-elect Eric Adams has voiced support for his predecessor’s signature Rikers closure/replacement plan, although his campaign-anchoring promise to aggressively crack down on crime, and, in turn, increase the jail population, is at odds with de Blasio’s vision to dramatically thin out the city’s jail population so that Rikers can be closed. And while de Blasio has pushed to end the practice of placing detainees held at Rikers and other city jails in solitary confinement—a method of punishment viewed by many as ineffective and barbaric—by the end of his administration, Adams has vowed to reinstate it once he takes office.