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New York’s notorious prison could be transformed into a green hub

The local council has planned to close New York’s most notorious prison by 2027. In efforts to decarbonise the state, designers have put forward ideas to turn Riker’s Island into a green energy hub.

Over the years, Riker’s Island – a 400-acre piece of land located between the Bronx and Queens – has gained a reputation for being home to one of the world’s most brutal prisons.

Most people know about Riker’s because famous rappers, hardcore criminals, and sometimes wrongfully convicted citizens have been sent there to endure its harsh conditions and highly dysfunctional environment.

It’s had a lot of bad press, especially during the last year, when a record nineteen inmates died while behind bars. The council has promised to close the facility by 2027.

The next step is to figure out what to do with the spacious island once its 5,700 inmates are relocated to four brand-new prisons. Ideas of turning it into a space that progresses the city’s green agenda have loomed since the prison’s closure was announced.

Now, blueprints are finally being put forward.

In partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design, New York’s Regional Plan Association (RPA) has presented a solid plan to transform it into a sustainable energy hub.

Under this plan, Rikers would become home to solar panels, battery storage, and brand-new wastewater facilities that support the nearby neighbourhoods of the Bronx and Queens.

A major part of the plan has involved voices from the Renewable Rikers Coalition, a collection of organisations which represent individuals who were previously incarcerated in the facility.

They have suggested offering solar panel installation and repair training to former prisoners in order to provide them with jobs at the sustainability hub. Employing former prisoners, they say, will benefit families scarred by experiences with the prison.

The new green facility on Rikers Island would replace the noxious power and sewage treatment plants located inside neighbourhoods of the Bronx and Queens.

By outsourcing these processes, an extra 182 acres of land would be freed up for residents. This space could be later transformed into playgrounds, community centres, parks, or anything else needed by locals.

On top of this, Rikers would still have enough leftover room to install recycling and composting hubs that support the city’s waste management..

Speaking of the project, the RPA’s vice president Moses Gates said,’ Following through on the vision for a renewable Rikers is a can’t-miss opportunity for the city to reach its decarbonisation goals while serving as a national model for climate-focused redistributive justice.’

Let’s hope we see this specific plan – or something similar – come to life in the coming years.


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