Picture: Renewable Rikers

After the announcement of the jail complex’s closure by 2027, city officials have been devising a comprehensive plan to transform Rikers Island into a citywide green energy hub.  

The press release stated that the report, A Plan for Renewable Rikers, follows last year’s City Council vote to finally reimagine Rikers and outlines a vision to replace the island’s current facilities with a solar energy installation; recycling and composting infrastructure; a citywide wastewater treatment plant that would free up 182 acres of community space in Queens and the Bronx; and a new research and training institute that would provide educational and workforce development opportunities to individuals formerly incarcerated at Rikers. 

“As Rikers Island descends deeper into crisis conditions, it is critical that we are prepared to hit the ground running on a new vision for its future,” said Moses Gates, RPA’s Vice President for Housing and Neighborhood Planning.  “RPA is proud to build on the work of environmental and criminal justice advocates in presenting a plan to reimagine Rikers’ 400 acres as a green energy hub that strengthens the city’s resilience to climate change and delivers substantial community benefits—especially for the Black, Brown and poor New Yorkers who have borne the brunt of mass criminalization and noxious energy facilities. Following through on the vision for a renewable Rikers is a can’t miss opportunity for the city to reach its decarbonization goals while serving as a national model for climate-focused redistributive justice.” 

The New York City Council voted back in 2021 to permanently close Rikers Island after decades of inhumane living conditions, deaths, and calls for reform. The ownership of the island will be transferred over to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.  

This transfer enables the shift of energy and waste infrastructure that is currently in neighborhoods surrounding the island in Queens and the Bronx to Rikers itself. 

Some features highlighted in the renewable Rikers plan include a research and training institute, solar energy installation and energy storage, a citywide wastewater treatment plant and a composting and recycling hub. 

“RPA’s report today on Renewable Rikers Island is an exciting step forward in envisioning a just transition for the future of the island. The added vision for power production, wastewater recovery, anaerobic digestion and job creation drives the conversation forward helping reinforce the need to build this renewable energy hub. Renewable Rikers Island is an imperative for New York City that we cannot go back on. Thank you to the RPA for their efforts to create this report.” – said Costa Constantinides, former New York City Councilmember and sponsor of the Renewable Rikers Act.