Criminal Justice

Rikers replacement jails won't be ready by 2027 deadline, City Hall budget director says

“We know it’s not going to happen by 2027,” Budget Director Jacques Jiha said of the plan to close Rikers Island, during a discussion of the city’s capital budget.

City Budget Director Jacques Jiha testifies at the City Council’s first preliminary budget hearing on March 4, 2024.

City Budget Director Jacques Jiha testifies at the City Council’s first preliminary budget hearing on March 4, 2024. John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

The City Council’s first preliminary budget hearing on Monday offered some insight into how the Adams administration views projects in its capital budget, including the construction of borough-based jails that are required by law to replace Rikers Island by 2027. In short, the city’s budget director doesn’t see it getting done on time.

The Adams administration has made numerous suggestions that an alternative plan will be needed, in part because of a growing jail population. When answering questions from Council Member Diana Ayala about how capital projects get prioritized by the administration, New York City Budget Director Jacques Jiha offered an even more concrete idea of how the administration views the plan to close Rikers. 

“We know it's not going to happen by 2027,” Jiha said of getting borough-based jails up and running. “Even though we know we’re not going to spend the money for the borough-based jails by 2027, we have to keep it there,” he said, noting that that limits where else the city can allocate capital funding now.

Ayala criticized a lack of communication and collaboration from the administration. “I’m not committing to making any changes on the borough-based jails, but you didn’t give us that chance, because that conversation was never had,” Ayala said.

Adams often stresses that he will always follow the law, and City Hall stressed the same in a statement on Monday. “Our administration supports closing Rikers Island under a plan that ensures the dignity, safety, and care for all justice-involved New Yorkers, but it is clear that the plan approved under the last administration created serious challenges for our ability to keep New Yorkers safe,” a City Hall spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Work is underway for all four borough jail sites, and we look forward to reviewing the Lippman Commission’s recommendations for how the city could move forward.”

New York City’s jails’ population was 6,167 as of Feb. 1, according to a dashboard maintained by the city comptroller’s office. The capacity of the four borough-based jails that are meant to replace Rikers was recently increased to 4,160 beds – still 2,000 short to house the current population on Rikers.