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.

Read Time: 2 minutes

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

Books

The Top Urban Planning Books of 2022

An annual list of the must-read books related to urban planning and its intersecting fields.

November 28, 2022 - James Brasuell

Urban separated bike lane with street trees on one side and cars parked on the other

How Urban Trees Save Lives

New research shows a strong connection between a healthy urban tree canopy and lowered mortality rates.

December 1, 2022 - Congress For New Urbanism

Alaska

Anchorage Eliminates Parking Requirements Citywide

Anchorage is the latest city to enact sweeping parking reforms, in another blow to the car-centric status quo of planning.

November 23, 2022 - Anchorage Daily News

Light Rail Project Proposed Route

$1.9 Billion in State Budget Surplus Requested for L.A. Transit Projects

L.A. transit officials hope the state budget surplus can be used to fund regional transit project, including one highly anticipated light rail project that broke ground on Friday, December 2.

5 hours ago - Los Angeles Daily News

Rendering of Brightline West train passing through Southern California desert

L.A.-Las Vegas High Speed Rail Could Break Ground Next Year

The privately funded train would shuttle passengers between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in half the time it takes to drive and could take 3 million vehicles off the road.

7 hours ago - Smart Cities Dive

Highway sign with "Stop the strak of TX traffic fatalities" against blue sky

Texas Road Safety Messaging Blames Pedestrians, Ignores Structural Flaws

Critics of the state’s ‘Be Safe. Drive Smart.’ campaign say the messaging puts the onus on pedestrians and cyclists while failing to address the lack of robust pedestrian and bike infrastructure in many of its cities.

December 4 - Next City

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.