The design workshop at Borough Hall, not far from where the facility will be built, came nearly a week after the city put out a Request for Qualifications to begin the search for the design build teams that will be involved in construction.
It was also the day after the Community Preservation Coalition - a group made up of Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and Briarwood homeowners - announced it was filing a lawsuit against the city’s decision to build a new jail in the neighborhood.
A group of South Bronx residents also filed a similar suit against the city last Tuesday to halt the construction process for the borough based facility planned for Mott Haven.
Despite the opposition, officials are continuing with the design build program, having held an identical workshop in Manhattan earlier in the week.
The format of the design workshops was developed and implemented through a collaboration with AECOM. Residents were first asked to identify what they appreciate most about their community, before filling out a booklet that asked for feedback on elements of the facility’s open space, the design of the ground floor, and how the building will look from the outside.
Attendees were also asked what they feel would be the best use of a “community space” the city is planning to build within the jail’s parking garage.
Officials explained that input gathered at these workshops will be incorporated into the guidelines to be submitted to the chosen design build team. There was no clear response on how the integration of those ideas would be determined.
Though city officials claim they sent out nearly 100 invitations to Thursday night’s workshop, less than 15 people showed up. Eleven of them were residents of the neighborhoods that directly surround the jail, with the remainder coming from other parts of Queens.
“There’s unfortunately fewer than I thought there might be, but your words are important and carry even more weight now,” said Rebecca Clough, who has been appointed assistant commissioner for the borough-based jail program.
Some of the residents in attendance said they didn’t personally receive any notification from DDC, but were there because others in the community told them about the workshop.
As members of the Queens Neighborhood Advisory Council, they expressed repeated disdain for the city’s plan and asked for “factual information” when it comes to the project.
“Our opinion is that this jail is in the wrong place,” said Sylvia Hack, who is also a part of the Community Preservation Coalition. “There should never have been a ULURP in the first place, because they don’t even know what the building is going to be.”
“There’s a group out there that don’t want jails and don’t want to leave Rikers Island,” said Tim Farrell from the DOC, “and you have to respect those thoughts. That’s what they’ve known their entire life.
“Seeing is believing,” he continued “This is the unknown for a lot of people. Once they start to see something tangible, I think it has the ability to bring more people on board.”
Representatives from DDC explained they are currently in the procurement stage of the project. The next step is a Request for Proposals regarding the structure’s parking garage, which is expected to go out in two weeks.
The RFP for the facility is projected to go out in 2022, and the jail itself must be built and occupied by the end of 2026, when the jail on Rikers Island officially closes.