Months after the City Council approved the closure of Rikers Island, the city is moving forward with a plan to determine what to do with the land that for decades has been home to one of the country's most violent and mismanaged detention facilities.

"We now have an extraordinary opportunity to turn Rikers Island into something positive," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a City Council hearing.

Although Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn't said how the island should be used in the future, the administration is working with an eye toward something green.

"We're really excited to talk to New Yorkers about the future of the island and find purposes for the island that serve the public good, that respect the history of the island, as well as really think about how the island can serve as one of the solutions to our climate crisis," said Dan Zarrilli, the director and chief climate policy officer of OneNYC.

Zarrilli will lead the effort. He will meet with local communities and draw up recommendations for what to do with 400 acres of soon-to-be-public land.

"We want to come back with all that feedback, with the advice from the advisory board, with the community advice, and really put forward a new vision for the island," he said.

The City Council held hearings Wednesday looking at the possibility of:

  • Creating renewable energy at Rikers
  • Determine if a waste water treatment plant can be built on the land

The next step in the land-use process is also beginning this week. On Thursday, the city will present an application to the Queens borough president.

"The beauty of this application is that we are going to convert Rikers Island into a public space," Democratic Bronx Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. said.

And although Rikers is geographically in the Bronx, it will be up to Queens to cast the deciding vote before the measure moves to the council.

"Rikers Island has an effect in the South Bronx," Salamanca Jr. said. "I want to make sure that residents in the South Bronx have a say-so as to actually what happens with this land in Rikers."

De Blasio is expected to sign an executive order in the coming days outlining the next steps in the process for public engagement. He will also appoint an advisory board which will include the council speaker, local lawmakers, and justice organizations.


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