Activists Denounce Rikers Plan, Say City Continues To Neglect Homeless

Homeless Subways
Photo credit Marla Diamond/WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Dozens of protesters descended on City Hall Friday morning, shaming Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council for approving an $8 billion plan to close Rikers Island and replace it with four smaller, borough-based jails.

The activists gathered on behalf of the city’s homeless population, saying the city has neglecting providing adequate housing for hundreds of people living on the street, but managed to gather the billions necessary to construct four jails.

“The City Council voted to build four new borough-based jails with a nine-billion-dollar price tag. So, we have the opportunity to build jails with nine-billion-dollars, but we don't have billions of dollars to house the homeless. It is not right,” said homeless advocate Jawanza Williams.

The protest comes just weeks after five New Yorkers were attacked while sleeping on the street by another homeless individual. Four of the people beaten died from their injuries.

Following the incident, Mayor de Blasio promised to send more resources into the Bowery, where the attacks happened, but advocates say the city needs to do more.

“Any one of us could be homeless. The housing prices now is insanely high, the cost of living here: untenable,” said Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou.

They called on the city to use part of the $9 billion set aside for the prisons to create affordable housing, adding that the city has not delivered on its promises to do so over the years.