READERS SOUND OFF ON THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS TO IMPROVE JAILS, TALK TO THE STAFF

Staten Island: In the last 12 years, the leadership and management in the Department of Correction has been a dismal
failure. Unfortunately, officers and uniformed managers have been made the scapegoats.

 Over the years, and as recently as Aug. 26, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark has warned the city and the department that when crimes are committed behind bars, “there must be administrative tools for swift and certain punishment” and “we cannot prosecute our way out of this.” The jails are out of control because the mayor, City Council and other lawmakers have systemically removed all accountability from the people incarcerated in them.

The Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations removed uniformed managers from decision-making and appointed commissioners with absolutely no experience running a jail system or running a jail. Since then, officers and uniformed managers were rarely, if at all, consulted when programs, policies and procedures were instituted inside city jails.From 2009-2021, the city paid tens of millions of dollars to consultants, and 12 years later the jails are worse than ever. It is the belief among the rank and file that the last four commissioners gave up control of Rikers Island in return for a blip on a resume. 

Since 2009, decision-making has been given to outside agencies and watchdog groups. The mayor, City Council, Board of Correction, hired consultants, a federal monitor and reform organizations have made bad management decisions that made the current crisis. Correction officers, staff and inmates have been subjected to rules and policies that sound good in the world of algorithms and politics but are not practical in the everyday operations of a large jail system. 


Elias Husamudeen, former president,
Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association


THE CHICKENS HAVE COME HOME TO ROOST

In the last 12 years, the management in the Department of Correction has been a dismal failure. Unfortunately, NYC Correction Officers and uniformed managers have been made the scapegoat, because now the chickens have come home to roost, and blame for failure must be placed on someone. Over the years, and as recently as Aug. 26, Bronx DA Darcel Clark warned the city and department that when crimes were committed behind bars,“theremust be administrative toolsfor swift and certain punishment” and “we cannot prosecute our way out of this.” The jails are out of control because theMayor, City Council and other lawmakers have systematically removed all accountability from incarcerated people behind bars.


The Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations removed uniformed managers from decision-making levels and appointed Commissioners with no experience running a jail system, and sometimes even a jail. During that time, Correction Officers and uniformed managers were rarely consulted when attempting to institute programs, policies, and procedures inside the city jails.


It’s been more than 12 years since DOC had a Commissioner take a stand against City Hall when its directives had adverse effects on the agency. From2009–2021, the city hasspent tens ofmillions of dollars on consultants, and the jails areworse than they’ve ever been. It is the belief among the rank and file that the last four Commissioners gave up control of RikersIsland in return for a blip on a resume.

The decision-making has been given to outside agencies and watchdog groups. We have had the Mayor, City Council, Board of Correction, consultants, Federal monitor and reform organizations produce bad choices, creating the current crisis. Correction Officers, staff, and inmates have been subjected to rules and policies that sound good in the world of algorithms and politics, but aren’t practical in operating a large jail system. 


Correction Officers have seen new policies and procedures instituted by Commissioners who have absolutely no idea of
what cause and effectmeansin a jailsystemlike RikersIsland. To top it off, Correction Officers and uniformed managers have been forced to implement ideology disguised as rules and policies. There is a saying,“People don’t leave companies, they leave managers, and since 2009, the list of uniformed managers and line officers who left this agency is too long to list. The “Baby Boomer” generation that made up half of the uniformedworkforce has been retiring in large numbers, taking with themthe institutional knowledge of the DOCwhen it faced AIDS, H1N1, other communicable diseases, the crack epidemic, increasing incarcerations for “quality of life” crimes, and the explosion of gangsin the city. It faced these changes alongwith a rocky economy butsucceeded in not losing control of the jails.


Bottom Line: the next Mayor and Commissioner will have the daunting task of repairing a jail system neglected and mismanaged for the last 12 years.


ELIAS HUSAMUDEEN 

Past President, Correction Officers’

Benevolent Association

NO ROOM ON RIKERS ISLAND FOR THE NEXT MAYOR

There are indications that the pandemic is entering a new phase which will affect the city more than anyone can reasonably predict. And yet, the current realities of a $5.4-billion budget crisis, increased numbers of incarcerated individuals, and the continued loss of uniformed and non-uniformed Correction Department staff is being ignored.

The de Blasio administration is leaving the next administration in an Edward Koch and David Dinkinsscenario. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the War on Drugs/Crimes/Gangs left NYC jails unprepared for the influx of people incarcerated. Each administration was forced to hire and purchase jail barges to handle the overflow. The inmate population grew to 22,000, while the number of correction officers reached 12,000.


In October 2019, the City Council and Mayor agreed to close Rikers Island as a correctional facility by 2026 and open four new borough-based jails with a planned capacity of 3,300. this July 12, Mayor de Blasio said, “we’ve been able to close down another building at Rikers and therefore not need as many officers to cover the inmates we have.” The closing, decommissioning and transferring of Department of Correction facilities has removed 3,200 beds from the inventory of the incoming Mayor. There are also 1,297 damaged beds/cells, leaving the incoming administration with fewer than 1,912 usable beds for the detainee population.

Newly appointed Commissioner Schiraldi has ignored the 4-5-percent increase in the inmate population since his June 1 appointment. While the number of detainees continues to grow, DOC has lost 20 percent of its uniformed and non-uniformed staff because of unsafe conditions and questionable management.


The next mayoral administration is facing a $5.4-billion deficit, massive job losses and billions lost in tax revenues. Under the best circumstances, closing Rikers is going to be a complex undertaking. To spend $8.7 billion to build jails in
the face of that deficit is fiscally irresponsible. the incoming administration must reevaluate the closing of Rikers Island.

As New Yorkers call for safer streets, and both Democratic and Republican candidates focus on gun crimes and gang activity, it is expected that the jail population will increase 16-20 percent. The jail system cannot accommodate this increase. The population has increased 47.3 percent since July 2020, when it was 3,927. As of July 2021, the census
was 5,784. More than 85 percent of these individuals have felony charges; nearly 40 percent face “A” and “B” felony crimes. We can assume that if further changes are made to bail reform, there will be more arrests made. But the DOC is
ill-equipped to accommodate the push to get criminals off the street.


There is no way for the next administration to achieve social and economic development without addressing the unsafe environment in the streets and jails. the next Mayor cannot reduce crime by decree. However, he can help by ensuring that capacities of the jails can humanely contain wrongdoers.


Elias Husamudeen
Past President
Correction Officers’ Benevolent
Association


A THIRD BITE TO GET IT RIGHT MAYOR DE BLASIO AND HIS NEW JAIL COMMISSIONER FIND THEMSELVES IN A UNIQUE POSITION

Mayor de Blasio and his third Correction Commissioner find themselves in a unique position after nearly eight years in
which the department’s failures have overshadowed the successes. Although there’s been a reduction in the inmate
population and the use of punitive segregation, the overall safety in the jails has increased from 2013 and has gotten progressively worse each yearsince he’s been Mayor. Instead of focusing on reducing recidivism, producing rehabilitation and ending generational incarceration, de Blasio has been focused on building four new borough jails, and the shutdown of Rikers. He has paid lip service to the reduction of jail violence. His first Correction Commissioner, Joseph Ponte, wastasked with the elimination of punitive segregation under the guise of reform. 

The second, Cynthia Brann, was tasked with closing Rikers. Histhird commissioner, Vincent Schiraldi, has six months to reduce violence and bring reform. There are approximately 5,700 people in the city jails, with 78 housed in punitive segregation and 219 in alternative- to-punitive-segregation units. Thissmall number of incarcerated individuals, who are responsible for most of the violence in the jails, are known to all. Not all the violence in the jails is because of idleness. Much of it has to do with the business of the gangs in and out of the jails.

Schiraldi served as a senior adviser and was instrumental in implementing the Mayor’s criminal-justice reforms. The
coronavirus and changes in the law, as well as internal rules reduced the number of incarcerated individuals, but this
hasn’t reduced jail violence. The things street and jail crimes have in common are gangs, the mentally ill, the homeless and young adults. The last time the city jails experienced low numbers in violence, slashing and stabbings, and assaults against correction employees and other incarcerated individuals was in 2013. Will the new Commissioner recognize what insanity looks like and travel a new road to create safer jails?

In his first communication, Schiraldi said he would be based at RikersIsland “to be closer to the agency’s daily operations” and regularly walk through the jails“to see and hear from you firsthand how you think we can further improve conditions.” I’m sure he means well, but this is a corporate approach that was also taken by his predecessors. 

Here are two questions on everyone’s mind: When will the triple tours be resolved, and what is your plan to reduce violence? Don’t be afraid to use the words punitive, segregation and separation when addressing violent crimes committed behind bars. To critics who point out that he’s never run a jail system, he responded that he had never run a juvenile facility or probation department before doing so successfully in Washington, D.C. and New York. To that, Isay neither compares to running the largest penal system in the world. In his first month on the job, the violence continues to soar and  correction officers are still working 24-hour shifts.

ELIAS HUSAMUDEEN
Former President,
Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association

City Council Passes Constantinides’ Renewable Rikers Act, Paves Way for Renewable Energy Hub

The New York City Council voted to pass Council Member Costa Constantinides’ ‘Renewable Rikers Act’ Thursday, which moves the city a step closer to reimagining the island without jails.

The act is comprised of two bills sponsored by Constantinides. The first bill transfers control of the island from the Department of Corrections (DOC) to Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the second bill directs the city to conduct a feasibility study on the island’s potential to house and store renewable energy sources.

The passage of the Renewable Rikers Act follows legislation passed by the City Council in October 2019 that mandates the city to close the notorious jail complex in coming years. That legislation also requires the city to construct four borough-based jails to replace the complex–one in each borough with the exception of Staten Island.

Constantinides’ first bill passed today by a vote of 37 to 7, with two abstentions. The second bill, regarding a sustainability study, passed by a vote of 42 to 2, also with two abstentions.

The first bill requires every building or facility not actively being used by DOC to be turned over to DCAS over the next six years. DOC will be required to shut down jails on Rikers Island entirely by Aug. 31, 2027.

The second bill requires the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS) to study the feasibility of building renewable energy sources and large-scale batteries to store the energy produced on the island. Such a plan would help the city reach its long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuel power plants, Constantinides said.

“These bills will offer the city a pathway to building a hub for sustainability and resiliency that can serve as a model to cities around the world,” he said.

The Renewable Rikers Act will also bring justice to those victimized by a racist criminal system on the island, he added.

“The 413 acres of Rikers Island have, for far too long, embodied an unjust and racist criminal justice system,” Constantinides said.

The two bills were developed with input from community leaders, environmental activists and criminal justice reform advocates, including those formerly incarcerated at Rikers Islands.

Many advocates celebrated the passage of the Renewable Rikers Act Thursday, including members of the Freedom Agenda, an organization comprised of people directly affected by incarceration.

“Today is a historic step in the right direction,” said Darren Mack, Co-Director of Freedom Agenda. “It took courage, commitment, and work to get us to this point; it is going to take a renewal of courage, commitment, and work moving forward towards our goals.”

A number of Queens council members, however, voted against one of the bills. Council Members Robert Holden, Eric Ulrich and Paul Vallone voted against the bill removing DOC control of Rikers Island.

Meanwhile, Council Member I. Daneek Miller abstained from voting on both bills.

$9B plan to replace Rikers with borough jails delayed due to NYC’s cash-crunch

The city’s COVID-19 budget crisis has caused the de Blasio administration to push back plans to replace Rikers Island  — and may mean that four smaller jails will never get built.

The $8.7 billion scheme for new jails in every borough except Staten Island, was scheduled to be done by the fall of 2026.

Now they won’t be completed until August 2027, according to a City Planning Commission presentation given by administration officials Monday.

De Blasio and many of the City Council members who approved the new jails plan last year will be term-limited out of office by 2022– years away from the revised completion date.

De Blasio has already cut spending for the massive plan by $500 million in this year’s budget, and pushed costs into 2029, prompting the council’s finance director to note, “Continued delays of these projects into years beyond the current administration decrease the chances of these jails being built.”

News of the new timeline was first reported by the media outlet The City.

The closure of Rikers Island depends on a continuing shrinking of the jail population at a time when some categories of crime including murder are rising in the city.

The de Blasio administration also facing three lawsuits over the new jail locations, including one recently green lighted by a Manhattan judge who found government officials hadn’t completed required reviews for a replacement facility at 125 White St. Two other suits are pending in The Bronx and Queens.

Still the Dept. of Correction is moving ahead with plans to demolish and rebuild the current Manhattan Detention Facility known colloquially as ‘The Tombs’ at 125 White St with a smaller lockup. The notorious downtown slammer is scheduled to close by the end of November.

“The city’s commitment to closing the jails on Rikers Island has not wavered,” Colby Hamilton, a spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, told The Post.

“The updated schedule reflects the ongoing dynamics forced on the city by the COVID-19 pandemic. The completion of new, modern facilities closer to communities and families will remain within the 10-year time frame established by Mayor Bill de Blasio. We will continue working diligently to achieve this goal shared by New Yorkers,” Hamilton said.

He added, “The impact of the updated schedule on the borough-based jail project cost remains under review.”

Former New York state Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who led a panel that recommended closing Rikers and replacing it with smaller lockups across the city, blasted the delay.

“It is unacceptable for the city to further delay closing the jails on Rikers,” Lippman said.

“The events of 2020 – from the pandemic to the economic crisis to a sharpened focus on racial equity – have made the need to shut down institutions of racial injustice like Rikers more, not less urgent,” Lippman said.

A spokesman for Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, “Closing Rikers Island remains a high priority for the City Council, and we are committed to making this a reality.”

Bill de Blasio’s replace-Rikers plan is falling completely apart

‘If he were serious about it, he would have started in the first year of his first term.’

Will Mayor de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers be the left’s Second Avenue subway — something all public officials favor but never accomplish? Hizzoner will leave office next year with no progress on his “four borough jails” plan. His successor will care less.

In his “Last Subway” book, Philip Plotch explains why, since 1903, generations of New York pols have promised a Second Avenue subway but never delivered. Yes, we finally have three East Side stops. But the original plan was from the East Bronx to lower Manhattan.

The political calculus is simple: Because no one mayor or governor could ever hope to take credit for completing such a project within his term in office, no mayor or governor has made it a priority. Who wants to take on a headache only to see his successor claim the accolades?

De Blasio devised a shortcut: taking the credit first. “The era of mass incarceration is over,” he said last October, when the City Council passed the plan to build one jail apiece in lower Manhattan, Kew Gardens, the south Bronx and central Brooklyn, thus shuttering the island jails. Over!

Well, the era of mass incarceration has long been over. As the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice notes, “both crime and the use of jail have been falling steadily in New York City for 20 years,” with incarceration down 51 percent since 1999, far lower than other US cities.

Yet the anti-jails movement seized on Rikers as a symbol — and the mayor obliged.

Closing Rikers, though, would be the most ambitious infrastructure project the city has managed in modern history: $9 billion to build four high-rise jails in four dense neighborhoods by 2026. So if he were serious about it, he would have started in the first year of his first term, not halfway through his second.

Now the plan has suffered two setbacks. Last week, a state judge upheld a suit filed against the Chinatown jail by a grassroots group, Neighbors United Below Canal. NUBC alleged that the city abused the state’s environmental process in doing its study for one potential downtown site, then abruptly switching to another location.

The city also failed to look at the public-health impacts, as the law requires, “purportedly completed environmental . . . review . . . before the project had even been designed” and failed to consider alternatives.

The judge decided that the city had committed an “error of law.” Two similar suits against the Bronx and Queens jails are pending.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t easy to stop a project with a lawsuit. The city was sloppy. “It’s not rocket science,” says Karen Mintzer, NUBC attorney. Now, the ruling causes a delay, at best.

Except the city has already delayed. In this year’s budget, de Blasio slashed the project by $500 million and delayed some spending as late as 2029. As the council’s finance director noted, “Continued delays of these projects into years beyond the current administration decrease the chances of these jails being built.”

The mayor who will cut nothing immediately cut this.

The longer the city dithers, the more facts intrude. The new jails will have a capacity of just 3,544 beds. Even as the city has released inmates during the pandemic, the jail population still stood at 3,981 in late May. Since then, violent crime has risen, including crimes allegedly committed by recently ­released arrestees.

Then there is a risk the city never considered in its environmental review: the probability that borough-based jails would attract sustained protest. A new jail in lower Manhattan would be a magnet for the “occupy and vandalize” crowd. Already, engineering firms are wary of being associated with a high-profile jail.

And it’s even less wise than it was last year to destabilize stable neighborhoods, when the city must retain its tax base.

Now the jails plan has lost the only thing going for it: a political champion. Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker who approved it, had a stake. But he is no longer running for mayor.

The next mayor isn’t going to want to spend a first term, and then some, focusing on the marquee infrastructure of the last mayor.

The best outcome is the alternative de Blasio refused to consider: modern jails at Rikers. The more likely outcome is that the inmates keep waiting, just as the East Bronx is still waiting for its subway.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

What to know about NYC’s $92.2 billion budget

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s five years in office have been marked by a thriving economy locally and nationally. New York City is expected to bring in $92.2 billion in revenue next year – up about $14 billion from de Blasio’s first budget, enacted in 2014. But the mayor once again played the role of cautious fiscal steward in his preliminary budget presentation Thursday afternoon, saying that the city’s finances face an “unusual level of uncertainty” due to a number of outside threats. Here are five things to know about the budget.

The budget continues to grow

New York City expects to raise $92.2 billion in fiscal year 2020. Since the city legally must have a balanced budget, that gives de Blasio’s government $92.2 billion to spend. That top line number is up $3 billion from the $89.2 billion budget passed last June (and makes it larger than any state’s budget except for California and New York).

But things aren’t peachy

De Blasio laid out the threats to New York City’s revenue, including the fear of an upcoming economic recession and current stock market volatility, which recently caused New York City to overestimate personal income tax revenues by nearly $300 million. Overall, the city expects to take in nearly $1 billion less in income taxes this year than last. Still, the city is taking in more money than ever thanks to rising property tax revenues – expected to be up nearly $2 billion next year.

De Blasio also pointed the finger at Albany, saying this year’s state budget shifts responsibility for $600 million dollars in spending onto the city’s shoulders, much of it in new education funding. Meanwhile, the city absorbs new costs, including a $1 billion increase in labor costs, and it is paying off more than $350 million in debt service this year.

There will be cuts

De Blasio need to find another $750 million in savings to balance the books before his executive budget is due in April. He’s planning to do so by extending the city’s partial hiring freeze (though the city worker headcount is already at an all-time high) and by giving every agency a tailored dollar amount they need to cut from their budget. De Blasio wouldn’t give specifics, but said “the bar will be set high” and threatened that his Budget Director, Melanie Hartzog, would make her own decisions for agencies that don’t cut to the mayor’s liking. Even the politically powerful police department, which frequently is spared budget cuts, would be included.

 

 

No major new initiatives

The mayor barely touched on two of New York City’s hottest issues. Asked if the Amazon deal would be having any effect on the budget the de Blasio said “Not that I can tell … effectively, no.” And asked if the budget devoted any more funds towards the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo has long asked of the city, de Blasio was even more succinct: “No. No.”

De Blasio also said that, thanks to the fiscal uncertainty, this year’s budget was shorter on new initiatives than any of his five previous budgets. He’ll devote some $25 million in the upcoming year to launching his NYC Care program in the Bronx to get uninsured New Yorkers preventative health care. It’ll go citywide and cost up to $100 million in subsequent years. And in a small budget line intended to help address a big problem, the city will spend $2.7 million on the mayor’s goal of speeding up city buses by 25 percent by December 2020.

His budget partners seem content

This preliminary budget is just the starting point for negotiations with the New York City Council. The mayor and the Council have nearly five months to negotiate before the budget is due on June 30. Council Speaker Corey Johnson, along with finance committee chairs Danny Dromm and Vanessa Gibson, released a joint statement that was generally supportive, agreeing the economy presents some challenges. But the Council vowed to save its own priorities from budget cuts, including the Fair Fares program for half-price Metrocards for low-income New Yorkers, and funding permanent housing for low-income New Yorkers.

The Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog which advocates for limited government spending, wasn’t as happy with de Blasio’s plan. Though the city is sitting on more than $5.5 million in various reserve funds, CBC President Andrew Rein called for more aggressive saving and limiting spending growth to inflation.

Moving ahead with Rikers closure is NYC elites’ latest harebrained, pro-crime plan

If you had any doubt that the City Council has lost touch with reality, its recent decision to proceed with the shuttering of Rikers should lay them to rest.

Last month, the council reaffirmed that it would move to close the Rikers jail and create a “renewable-energy hub” on the island. Local lawmakers are still planning to release another 1,200 inmates onto the street and to spend nearly $9 billion to build four jails in neighborhoods that don’t want them.

With murders and shooting victims skyrocketing, rising crime in almost every major violent category and historic budget deficits, this is irresponsibility verging on madness.

In April 2019, Rikers Island held about 7,500 inmates, and the city continued to enjoy a years-long decline in crime. Then, the state Legislature enacted its misguided bail “reform,” requiring judges to release without bail all defendants charged with burglary, car theft, drug dealing, grand larceny and almost all misdemeanors, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

But judges started reviewing the bail conditions of incarcerated defendants in September 2019, to see if any of them could be preemptively sprung under the new law. Early release would avoid the unseemly spectacle of thousands of career criminals walking out of city jails on Jan. 1. Judges started lowering or eliminating bail for hundreds of inmates, thereby releasing them back onto the streets. As a result of all this, the population on Rikers fell to 5,721 inmates by Jan. 1, 2020.


In January 2020, hundreds more burglars, car thieves, drug dealers and robbers were released from Rikers under the new laws, and the courts were prohibited from setting bail on new arrests for these crimes. By March 30, the population of city jails had fallen to just 4,637, a reduction of almost 3,000 inmates from a year earlier.

What was the effect of these releases? It was as if 3,000 inmates had escaped from city jails all at once. By March 15, 2020, robberies had spiked 34 percent, burglaries by 27 percent, grand larcenies by 16 percent and auto theft by 68 percent over the same period in 2019. These numbers represented the highest increase in crime in more than 30 years. And this was before the pandemic gripped the city and nation.

Once the coronavirus struck, a panicked city began to spring violent criminals to stop the spread in the jail system. By April 30, the city’s jail population was 3,824 inmates. Mayor de Blasio bragged about the reduced jail population, but he said nothing about the rising crime rate.

By June 14, the number of people shot in the Big Apple jumped 29 percent, and murders were up 25 percent. But city elites weren’t done with their anti-anti-crime efforts.

On June 15, 2020, a police-involved death in distant Minneapolis led the city to disband its anti-crime unit, the only non-uniformed street-enforcement operation in the NYPD tasked with getting guns off the street. Two weeks later, shooting victims in the city had risen 52 percent, homicides by 23 percent. By the end of 2020, murder had increased 47 percent, shooting victims by 102 percent.

Yet the mayor and City Council are consumed with reducing the jail population even further, the centerpiece of their effort being the plan to abandon Rikers — a solution in search of a problem.

Whatever the merits of releasing criminals from jail to reduce the spread of the virus, the city has proved once again the irrefutable proposition that permitting more criminals to roam the streets produces more crime.


To close Rikers — for purely ideological and political reasons — our elites are prepared to keep those criminals on the streets and to prohibit the city from ever incarcerating more than 3,300 individuals, no matter how many people are murdered and shot.

More people are dying and more people will continue to die because of their decisions.

Releasing criminals from jail, preventing judges from considering a defendant’s dangerousness when setting bail, discovery laws that make it extremely difficult to prosecute defendants and increasingly political attacks on the courageous men and women of the NYPD are contributing to criminality rates unseen in decades.

New York City, which as recently as a year ago was the safest large city in America, is steadily losing that title. For no good reason.

Jim Quinn was executive district attorney in Queens DA’s office, where he served for 42 years.

New Yorkers can still stop city’s plan to shutter Rikers amid a crime spree

Long before the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio headily vowed to close Rikers Island and spend $8.7 billion to replace the Depression-era jail complex with four high-rise jails across four boroughs by 2026.

Much has changed since: The city faces a budget crunch, opponents have filed lawsuits against the proposed jails — and a crime increase means the jails will struggle to accommodate inmates. The completion date for the project has already been pushed to 2028.

The plan is neither practical nor politically tenable.

The four new jails will have adverse consequences on their areas: Kew Gardens in Queens, Mott Haven in The Bronx, Manhattan’s Chinatown and central Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue. This, at a time when the city can’t risk more neighborhood destabilization. All four communities, despite vastly different demographics, voted against the new jails, but city leaders ignored them.

Granted, conditions at Rikers are unquestionably abysmal. The nine poorly constructed buildings are old and feebly maintained, and the cells are noisy, smelly and lacking in basic provisions for personal hygiene and climate control. In 2014, 57-year-old Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill veteran in on a trespassing charge, died of heat exhaustion in a cell. Families of inmates trying to visit Rikers are met with nightmare transit conditions.

But to acknowledge that Rikers has problems isn’t to say that improvements there are impossible — or that high-rise jails in dense neighborhoods would be any improvement. Some things closing Rikers won’t fix at all, like the mismanagement that led to the jails complex setting an alleged murderer free this week.

Because New York plans to insert each new jail into a densely populated neighborhood, the jails will have less cell space than Rikers, limiting the overall inmate population to 3,544. Yet even after a months-long push to release suspects at risk of COVID-19, the jail’s population stood at 5,528 in November 2020 — 56 percent over future maximum capacity.

The city is therefore making an optimistic bet that crime will fall significantly from 2019’s near-record-low levels, yet for 2020, the city’s homicide rate was up 40 percent over the previous year. If these figures persist, future officials will face unpalatable options: asking neighborhoods to accept higher crime, forcing inmates to remain locked up in overcrowded jails or reopening Rikers.

Given that Rikers is only 60 percent occupied, New York should abandon its borough-based replacement scheme and instead rebuild the island complex, transforming it into a modern jail, with hospital beds to treat the acutely mentally ill and ample space for indoor and outdoor recreation.

New Yorkers from all walks of life have reached the same conclusion: The new jails will create unwanted problems. While some apply to all four neighborhoods, such as parking, other worries are unique to each area.

Residents in Kew Gardens oppose the jail because they want to preserve the middle-class character of the neighborhood, which doesn’t need the opportunities that the city says the jail will supply. People in Mott Haven, a poorer, mostly Hispanic and black neighborhood in the southeast Bronx, worry about traffic, crime and poverty.

Chinatown actually has experience with operating a jail, and the Manhattan Detention Center has hardly been a good neighbor. Residents of central Brooklyn, also neighbors of an existing jail that the city will shutter and demolish, see through the idea that new buildings in new locations will solve the system’s problems.

What options do the locals have? The immediate one is legal. Community groups in three neighborhoods have sued the city, alleging that it failed to sufficiently honor the legal requirement to analyze potential environmental impacts.

Far superior to a legal win would be a happy political outcome. Opponents of the jails must stay organized enough, and focused enough, to demonstrate that they will vote as a bloc, affecting not only neighborhood races for the council but close citywide races, too — including the mayoralty. They must turn themselves into single-issue advocates.

There’s still time to mobilize.

In his first post-pandemic budget revision, in the spring of 2020, Hizzoner delayed the jails from 2026 to 2027. Again, in the fall of 2020, he delayed them to 2028. Before condemning thousands more Rikers inmates to await trial at the island’s obsolete facilities, the 2021 mayoral candidates should propose to pause the project and do what de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson should have done in the first place: rebuild in place at Rikers, on a faster schedule.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor of City Journal, from which this column was adapted.