Rikers Island Could Become A Real Estate Paradise For Developers

Big plans on the site that hosts the most notorious jail in the country. Is gentrification done with NYC and heading to Rikers Island?

By Nathalie Nayman November 23, 2016
Aerial view of Rikers Island. Photo via Crains

OK, folks. Name one place in New York that hasn’t fallen prey to the development frenzy. We bet you won’t find any. Gloomy East New York? Inaccessible Gerritsen Beach? Long gone. It seems that NYC’s every nook and cranny is either currently under construction—or already boasts some building complex with an unholy price tag.

Well, guess what? It turns out, developers did find yet another untouched land with a money-making potential and, of course, are already planning to snatch it—Rikers Island. Yep, that’s right—the one with the most notorious jail in the country. Indeed, when it comes to gentrification, nobody is safe—even inmates behind bars.

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The idea of shutting down Rikers Island prison is still just that—an idea, a remote possibility. Human rights activists are calling for the notorious jail to be shut down over the horrible treatment of inmates and its inhumane conditions. The NY state authorities are tentatively looking at potential sites to relocate the prison facility—some of the options being Queens and Brooklyn.

Nothing is set in stone yet. You see, according to Crain’s recent article, “the cost of moving inmates out and building new borough lockups would reach billions of dollars.” Now that would quite a blow to the state budget.

Developers, on the other hand, are salivating at the mere thought of 413-acre island getting cleared of the jail facility and becoming fair game in the big construction race. Different development possibilities for the island—should the authorities, indeed, shut down the prison—are currently being explored by a special committee, headed by MaryAnne Gilmartin, CEO of Forest City Ratner. One such option is residential mega development.

“The potential of that site is enormous,” says A. Eugene Kohn, chairman of architecture and planning firm Kohn Pedersen Fox. “It would give the city great growth room. It could be phenomenal.” In addition, Brooklyn developer David Kramer told NY Curbed that the island could potentially “hold a mid-rise, middle income housing development akin to Stuy.”

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Crain’s roughly estimated that a monthly rent for an average two-bedroom apartment on Rikers Island would cost $2,300—really cheap in comparison to, say, East Harlem’s median rent. So, we guess—there goes the prison? We at Agorafy are wondering—how long till the first artisanal bakery emerges on Rikers Island soil?

Speaking of soil—here is a fair warning. Rikers isn’t exactly the most green and sustainable place to live—since a big chunk of the island’s soil is unstable, contaminated and toxic. On the other hand, it does boast some spectacular skyline views.


Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

Nathalie is an international media trooper. After working as a journalist in Moscow, Nathalie participated in local politics and social movements in Cairo where she covered the protests and political upheaval of the Arab Spring. Nathalie is Agorafy's content manager. She produces and oversees unique and creative content for the Newsroom.

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