City Council Holds Hearings on a Renewable Future for Rikers Island

On January 29, Adriana Espinoza, Director of the New York City Program at the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV), testified at a New York City Council hearing about the future of Rikers Island. The Council recently voted to close the Rikers Island prison facility, which came after years of work by persistent advocates and members of affected communities. NYLCV, representing over 30,000 members in New York City, is committed to advancing a sustainability agenda that will make our people, our neighborhoods, and our economy healthier and more resilient.

Ms. Espinoza expressed support for a renewable future for Rikers Island, saying New York must seize the opportunity to transform the island into a place for the public good. While the Renewable Rikers Act is a step in the right direction and should be fully explored, it does not immediately redeem us from the injustices that have occurred there and continue to influence families and communities across this city. That’s why NYLCV strongly supports a community-driven discussion about the next phase of Rikers Island, and also supports the City undertaking studies about its green new economy, with the potential to realize that goal.

Intro 1591 is a proposed law that would explore putting waste water treatment plants on Rikers Island. It could be a means to combat the historic environmental burden that many neighborhoods in the area have borne for decades. Moving wastewater treatment plants to Rikers Island might mean being able to convert facilities to other purposes in local communities, which would take away a source of pollution and open up that space for alternative uses.

Intro 1593 is another proposal that would direct the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to study the feasibility of installing different types of renewable energy and battery storage on Rikers Island. Building renewable energy and battery storage on the island can combat climate change, while also creating a hub for green jobs and clean energy. This study is especially important, given there is very limited land available to locate clean energy within city limits.

For these reasons, NYLCV supports Intros 1591 and 1593, and included the bills in our 2019 City Council Environmental Scorecard. We will continue to work with our partners to move these bills forward in 2020. It is imperative that the push for a Renewable Rikers be an inclusive one that uplifts the voices of communities disproportionately affected by the tragic history of the island. We thank Chair Constantinides for championing these bills.