Chin Rails about Jail

City Council member Margaret Chin is raising a broad range of concerns related to the plan, currently being pushed by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, to build a new, 40-story prison in Lower Manhattan.

In a letter sent to City Hall on Monday, Ms. Chin objects first to what she sees as a lack of consultation with the surrounding Lower Manhattan community about the size and location of the proposed facility. Specifically, she questions how the de Blasio administration settled on their proposed site, located at 80 Centre Street, along with what alternative sites (if any) were considered, and why they were rejected.

Margaret Chin

She also voices skepticism about the assumptions underlying the plan for a new prison, such as the de Blasio administration’s aim to reduce the City’s prison population to 5,000 or fewer inmates. “Given that State action will be required for criminal justice reform,” she asks, “specifically regarding bail reform, how can the City commit to a decrease of detainees to the targeted number of 5,000? If not, what is your plan to work with the Governor and State Legislature to enact these needed changes?” She also wants to know, “what is the back-up plan if the City cannot reduce the number of detainees to targeted levels by the time needed?”

Finally, she raises multiple caveats about the proposal’s potential impact on the community, noting that these effects were not mentioned by the City Hall team at a September 12 Town Hall meeting focused on the proposal. Citing one local example, she notes that, “nearby Worth Street is currently under a massive, multi-year reconstruction that is already three years behind schedule,” and asks, “how is redevelopment on 80 Centre Street going to be coordinated with this ongoing project?”

Ms. Chin raises another granular case in point by observing that, “placards for official vehicles already take up numerous parking spaces in Chinatown and elsewhere in Lower Manhattan,” and asking, “what is the Administration’s plan to accommodate the increased parking needs for staff and visitors of an expanded” detention facility?

Finally, she proposes that a scoping meeting, scheduled for tonight (Thursday, September 27), be postponed until residents and local leaders are given answers on all of these issues. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no word from City Hall about whether they would agree to reschedule this evening’s meeting, which is slated to begin at 6:00 pm, in the 19th-floor office Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, located in One Centre Street.

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