Envisioning a Sustainable Future for Rikers Island

With the prison complex slated to close by 2027, the city has an opportunity to transform the island into a renewable energy and research hub.

2 minute read

November 8, 2022, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Crowd of activists protesting conditions at Rikers Island with one woman in front speaking into microphone

Activists protest prison conditions at Rikers Island in 2021. | Ryan Rahman / Activists at Rikers Island

Writing in Time Out, Anna Rahmanan describes one possible future of New York’s notorious Rikers Island, which has served as a prison since 1932 and has become notorious for poor conditions and the violent treatment of prisoners. In 2019, the City Council voted to close the main prison complex, making way for new uses that could include sustainable energy and waste facilities.

“Last week, the Regional Plan Association and Rhode Island School of Design released a report based on the vision of the Renewable Rikers coalition—composed of folks that were formerly incarcerated on Rikers, plus their families and environmental and social justice groups—outlining their plans to transform the area into a green energy center.” The report proposes a research and training facility for formerly incarcerated people, a wastewater treatment plant, and recycling facilities.

According to Rahmanan, “The latter hub could potentially process over 365,000 tons of organic waste each year while also decreasing the amount of pollution currently produces by trucks on the road—that's in an of itself a huge deal.” Meanwhile, the wastewater treatment plant would replace similar facilities now located in Queens and the Bronx.

Andrea Johnson, assistant professor in the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the Rhode Island School of Design, said in a statement, “The carefully thought out designs we've presented in this report show how the entire island can be activated as an energy hub for all of New York City, while freeing large swathes of neighboring boroughs from aging energy infrastructure.”

Monday, November 7, 2022 in Time Out NY

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