Now comes the hard part.

"New Yorkers should be proud of it," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday during his weekly appearance on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show. "We are leading the way on criminal justice reform in this entire country."

After a decisive City Council vote Thursday, the de Blasio administration will now begin the process of building four new borough-based jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

Stanley Richards, executive vice president of the Fortune Society, an organization which works with formerly incarcerated people, said the city's criminal justice system is likely to see generational change in the coming years as Rikers prepares to shut its doors.

"It's a once-in-a-generation chance to close Rikers and replace it with something that is far better, far smaller, and much more humane," Richards said at a news conference with the mayor after the vote.

The administration has a tight deadline and big challenges just around the corner. The city is preparing to implement bail, speedy trial, and Discovery reform.

But de Blasio and most of the City Council will be out of office in the next two years.

The closure of Rikers, which proved divisive even in the hours leading up to the final vote, could become a hot-button issue in the city's next election cycle.

The mayor, who is term-limited out of office in 2022, had words for his successor:

"I don't know anyone running for mayor or running for council next time who will say, 'Oh no wait, let's go back to Rikers Island,'" de Blasio told NY1 on Thursday shortly after the vote. "Is someone going to say, 'I want to stop all that and have Rikers Island come back to life, change all those laws, and go back to this place that failed'? If they do that, I think they're going to have the people of this city turn against them."

Even with the approval of the Council, the city still has to finalize the jail designs.

Renderings show a concept for what the administration hopes to build: jails that seamlessly blend into neighborhoods, near restaurants and subway stops, not far from the city's civic center in lower Manhattan.


But local opposition looms: The Bronx location, slated for the current site of a NYPD tow pound, does not have the backing of local residents.

There is no timeline yet for when the first shovel will hit the ground. First, the city must put out a call to interested developers and secure the contracts. The cost is estimated at $8 billion.


Renderings courtesy of the mayor's office.


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