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Could Rikers Island Be Up For Redevelopment?

Riker's Island aerial view

With increased interest from developers and politicians, the closing of Rikers Island seems more likely than it has in decades.

Related Cos executive Jay Kriegal has expressed intense interest in the island, and Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin is heading a mandated committee to reimagine the island. Former New York State chief judge Jonathan Lippman, who oversees the committee, has insisted that redevelopment considerations are second priority to improving the jail system, Politco reports.

While council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito seeks to close the property and Gov. Andrew Cuomo finds the idea intriguing, Mayor Bill de Blasio believes it makes more sense to make the facility more humane.

Discussions of closing Rikers go back to the late 1970s, when then-Mayor Ed Koch considered moving prisoners to borough jails for cost and accessibility reasons. Koch’s plans to sell Rikers to the state for use as a state prison and use the money to build jails in the boroughs fell apart.

Some believe the record-low crime rate, waning Rikers population and the political climate now make the closing more likely. Having developers eager to work with Cuomo and de Blasio on adding density helps. [Politico]