NYC closing jail barge
200 COs, who oppose the move, and the 500 inmates they oversee will be relocated from the floating jail to Rikers Island
By Leonard Greene
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — New York City’s floating jail, a “temporary” barge that has housed inmates along the East River off-and-on since the early 1990s, will close next month, officials said.
More than 500 people in custody and the 200 correction officers and staff who watch over them will be relocated from the Vernon C. Bain Center to Rikers Island and other lockups in a move designed to “centralize operations,” a department spokeswoman said.
The move drew immediate criticism from activists who have been trying for years to get officials to close Rikers.
“The Boat, like Rikers Island, should have closed a long time ago,” Lezandre Khadu, a member of the Campaign to Close Rikers, said in a statement. “However, transferring people from the Boat to Rikers is not the solution. It’s equivalent to jumping from the frying pan and into the fire.”
Khadu’s son Stephan Khadu, died on Sept. 22, 2021, after contracting meningitis while detained at the Bain Center.
Cynthia Acevedo, another Campaign to Close Rikers member, whose brother, Gregory, died nearly a year ago after jumping off the barge in an escape bid, said more needs to be done to reduce the overall jail population.
“I will be so glad to see the boat close, but the jails on Rikers need to close, too,” Acevedo said.
“The mayor constantly speaks about the amount of people with mental health challenges incarcerated, but he has not done anything to reduce that population. Instead of moving people from the Boat to Rikers, he should get them into treatment, and divert them from incarceration in the first place.”
The union that represents city correction officers “unequivocally” opposes the city’s plan to close the Bain Center.
“The fact that it’s closing is a recognition that the Department is not anywhere close to having the sufficient number of officers needed to maintain safety and security at our facilities even off Rikers Island,” said Benny Boscio, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.
“We have far too many officers working close to 150 hours of overtime a month and closing facilities isn’t going to solve that problem in the long term,” Boscio said. “We need more officers and we need them now.”
Closing the Bain center has been part of the city’s “Close Rikers” plan, which would move all the city’s jail detainees to new jails in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Work on the new jails is underway, but critics fear the city will not meet its October 2027 deadline for closing down Rikers.
The Bain Center’s closing also comes as a Manhattan federal judge has set plans to determine whether the federal courts should take over management of the city jail system.
A July report documented widespread deterioration of fire safety, sanitation and building infrastructure at Rikers Island and the rest of the aging New York City jails systems.
The barge off Hunts Point in the Bronx — across from Rikers Island — was built in 1989 and opened in 1992 as a temporary fix to ease Rikers’ soaring jail population during the height of the “war on drugs.” It was once one of five jail barges operated by the city.
The Bain Center was emptied out and closed in 1995 — though city officials said at the time that they were maintaining it in move-in condition. It reopened in 1998, and was used to house juvenile detainees before being converted to a men’s prison.