A reckoning with Rikers


Mere months before fast-tracked public hearings and votes on four skyscraping new jails meant to replace benighted Rikers Island, Mayor de Blasio admits his grand plans need rethinking.

For starters: An expensively drafted concept for a tower where Manhattan's Marriage Bureau now stands got scrapped as infeasible. Instead, the current Tombs are to triple in size to 50 stories, infuriating so much of Chinatown that the mayor paid a peace-making visit last week practically pleading for neighbors to demand their price in community benefits.

It's what the mayor won't admit yet that will cost the close-Rikers cause in the dearer currency of credibility: He's counting on borough jails even smaller than those in the already optimistic blueprint proposed by a commission headed by retired Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman — so they'll total around 5,000 inmates, rather than roughly 8,000 now. To get there, the state needs to pass criminal justice reforms that are carefully calibrated not to endanger public safety.

De Blasio helped make this mess. Rather than putting the five jails in five boroughs roughly proportional to the numbers each now sends to Rikers, the mayor ruled out Staten Island and divided the total by four.

Council politics put a Bronx site two miles from the courthouse, amid another knot of furious neighbors.

Rushing flawed plans too fast will only ensure Rikers Island remains open for many years to come.