It took 15 years and may take a couple more, but the prison barge docked at the end of the Hunts Point peninsula will be moved to Rikers Island.
In addition, no new jail will be built in the airspace over the parking lot next to where the barge is docked, as had originally been planned.
The 870-bed Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center is a barge docked off the end of Halleck Street in the East River.
The Department of Corrections announced on Wednesday, August 11 that it will move the facility from Hunts Point to Rikers Island as part of a sweeping plan to “right size” the city’s jail system, a term signifying that there will be renovations, closings and building of a number of properties.
Corrections will also build a new 1,500 bed facility on Rikers Island.
DOC deputy commissioner Sharman Stein said that the barge would be moved at an unspecified future date, after all of the permits for moving the facility are in place.
It is estimated that the new jail plan will save the city $415 million. Community Board 2 district manager John Robert he believes the decision not to expand the Bain facility will be welcome by most community members.
“In a sense they are keeping their word,” Robert said. “When the barge was first placed off Halleck Street during the Dinkins administration, the community was told it was temporary.”
Robert said that the DOC has been considering a new permant jail in Hunts Point since it first proposed constructing a jail at the Oak Point Rail Yard six years ago. He said that at the time, most of the community was opposed to the plan because it would take up waterfront property and create another prison in a community that already had the barge and a youth detention facility in nearby Mott Haven.
“We had more than our fair share of prisons,” Robert said.
Robert believes that when the barge is moved, it will help the planned Hunts Point Greenway run with more continuity along publicly-owned waterfront land in Hunts Point.
“We are happy because we really do not want to have jails in our community. Instead, we need jobs,” said Wanda Salaman, executive director of Mothers on the Move. “We are pleased to see that the prison barge will move from Hunts Point to Rikers Island.”
Salaman added that her group is pushing for more green collar and “living wage” jobs in Hunts Point. She said that youth programs are far more needed than jail space due to increased teen-on-teen violence this summer.
©2010 Community News Group