Rikers Island Set For Renewable Energy Generation

Rickey Yaneza

A bill signed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on February 25, 2021 could make Rikers Island a hub for renewable energy generation in the city. Rikers Island, a jail complex of nearly 10,000 beds, is set to close in 2026.

Via Press Release

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed a package of legislation that will transfer jurisdiction of Rikers Island to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and require a study of renewable energy generation and storage on Rikers Island, as well as a bill that would prohibit people convicted of a felony related to public corruption from running for elected office.

“As we drive a recovery for all of us, there is increased opportunity to reimagine public space,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We also must ensure public servants keep our trust. These bills will create a better and more sustainable future for all New Yorkers.”

Intro. 1592-A (Constantinides): This bill transfers jurisdiction of portions of Rikers Island that are not in active use as a jail site to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services beginning July 1, 2021, with the full transfer of Rikers Island to DCAS to be completed by August 31, 2027. This bill also establishes a Rikers Island Advisory Committee that will include members who were in custody on Rikers Island, members whose immediate family members were in custody on Rikers Island, and environmental justice advocates and sustainability experts. The Advisory Committee will make recommendations on the future uses of Rikers Island for sustainability and resiliency purposes.

Intro. 1593-A (Constantinides): This bill requires the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to study the feasibility of constructing renewable energy sources, which could include wind or solar power, and battery storage facilities on Rikers Island.

Intro. 374-A (Brannan): This bill disqualifies persons from holding office of Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President or Council Member if they have been convicted of felonies, or convicted of an attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony relating to public corruption, including: grand larceny of public funds, theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, making false statements if committed through the use of, or in connection with, such person’s elected office, wire and mail fraud, or interference with commerce by threats or violence.

“Today is another step forward in the work to transform Rikers Island from a symbol of mass incarceration into a space that benefits all New Yorkers, potentially as a hub for renewable energy. The Council’s top priority is to improve the lives of New Yorkers and that includes addressing climate change and strengthening the public trust, which these bills do,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

“For generations, Rikers Island has been a symbol the world over of our country’s failures to truly embody the principles of liberty and justice for all,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides. “With the passage of the Renewable Rikers Act into law, however, we will finally close the book on the island’s brutal history. Now we can begin the work of fulfilling the promise of Renewable Rikers and bringing true restorative and environmental justice to the communities that have long suffered in its shadow. I thank the mayor for his support of the Renewable Rikers Act and to all the advocates whose work led us to this momentous day.”

“Serving the public in elected office is a privilege, not a right, and it must be treated as such. Today, when trust and faith in government is at an all-time low, the last thing we need are elected officials who use their position of power to enrich themselves or their friends, get caught, and then come back looking for more. Now more than ever, we need elected officials who take the job because they are determined to build a better future for New Yorkers. With this law, we send a crystal clear message to those who wish to use an elected office to abuse the public trust: corruption is not welcome in New York City, and you don’t get a second chance to betray New Yorkers,” said Council Member Justin Brannan.

“Securing a renewable future for Rikers Island is a huge win for climate justice in New York City,” said Daniel Zarrilli, New York City’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor. “Today’s action by Mayor de Blasio gives us a chance to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity for clean energy, jobs, and environmental justice as we work to end the era of mass incarceration in New York City. Congratulations to Councilmember Constantinides and the members of the Renewable Rikers coalition. We look forward to the work ahead as we re-imagine Rikers Island to confront our climate crisis and secure a livable future for the next generation.”

“The Renewable Rikers Act is an important step in delivering restorative climate justice and a clean energy future for New York City,” said Kate Gouin, Acting Director, NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “We look forward to studying and realizing the role Rikers Island and those impacted by our criminal justice system will play in our pursuit of a just and sustainable future for all.”

“I’m looking forward to building a much brighter - and greener - future for Rikers Island,” said Lisette Camilo, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services. “Working together, Rikers Island can be transformed into an important part of our city’s green energy future.”

Press Release · New York City