Mayor Eric Adams, who had previously committed to closing the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, is now expressing doubts about meeting the 2027 deadline set for its closure.
In a Friday, December 15th, interview on NY1, Adams highlighted the need for a realistic approach, stating, “We want Rikers closed, but it has to be done correctly.”
The mayor’s statement comes amid growing pressures for the jail’s closure and a judge’s consideration of placing Rikers under external management.
On Thursday, a federal judge found the city’s Department of Correction in contempt of court for not notifying a federal monitor about placing detainees accused of arson in a specialized unit that did not have fire sprinklers.
The closure plan, formulated under former Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, involves replacing Rikers with smaller, borough-based jails.
While Mayor Adams had pledged to close Rikers Island during his mayoral campaign, he has since expressed reservations about the practicality of adhering to the mandated deadline.
His remarks have added to the growing uncertainty surrounding the timeline for shutting down Rikers, a facility plagued by persistent issues of dangerous conditions and alleged abuses for many years.
During Adams’ administration, there have been 28 deaths at Rikers, though the number has decreased to 9 this year. In 2022, there were 19 deaths.
A significant challenge in meeting the deadline is the replacement jail in Brooklyn, slated for completion in 2029, two years past the deadline.
Adams and Jonathan Lippman, chair of the commission overseeing Rikers’ closure, acknowledged these hurdles in a Daily News op-ed.
They cited the pandemic, the migrant crisis, and rising construction costs as major impediments.
Adams emphasizes the importance of proper closure procedures, including necessary capital improvements at Rikers.
Mayor Adams told NY1 he seeks to “get everyone to the table, look at the correct timeline, look at the dollar amount that’s attached, and make sure that we can close [Rikers] the right way.”
Adams named Lynelle Maginley-Liddie as the new correction commissioner last week, replacing Louis Molina, who has faced accusations from the federal monitor of lacking transparency.
Meanwhile, the city’s criminal justice advocates and council members are urging a steadfast commitment to the 2027 deadline.
Lincoln Restler, a City Councilmember, stressed the urgency, saying, “There’s no solution to this crisis that does not include committing every possible resource to closing Rikers by 2027; anything else is a disservice to New Yorkers.”
Similarly, Gabriel Sayegh of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice expressed concerns over Mayor Adams’ apparent deviations from the closure plan.
Sayegh stated, “The 2027 closure plan was in place when he took office. But as mayor, Adams has ignored or otherwise delayed virtually every legal deadline and process benchmark required by that plan, and instead has seemingly done everything possible to keep Rikers open.”