By David Brand
The City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee chairperson has a bright idea for what to do with Rikers Island, if and when the jail complex closes down.
District 22 Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants to build a solar field on the land, if all goes according to the city’s plan to close the vast jail complex over the next decade.
“With the prison on Rikers Island closing in the next 5 to 10 years, the city will soon have 400 acres of space open for redevelopment,” Constantinides said. “We will have a unique opportunity to solve several different environmental problems that have bedeviled us for decades.”
The solar power plan is based on a suggestion from Judge Jonathan Lippman, who said Rikers could serve as a future hub for “environmental infrastructure.” Lippman leads the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and has recommended closing Rikers Island.
Constantinides said his Rikers plan builds on research from the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform, which called for 100 acres on the island to be used for solar energy creation and battery storage. The solar power plan would enable the city to close some secondary power plants within city limits, which are located in underserved communities where concentrated fossil fuel use contributes to negative health outcomes.
The city could also build a new sewage treatment plant that could resist rising sea levels, Constantinides said. The new plant would allow the city to close aging and inefficent facilities in Astoria and College Point, as well as Hunt’s Point in the Bronx, he said.
Constantinides described the plan during his State of the District speech in Astoria on Thursday.
“We will build upon our first five years of progress together to make the central roadway of our district safer, make it less costly to power our public schools and reimagining Rikers Island as the epicenter for 21st Century infrastructure,” Constantinides said.