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See the Transformation: Renewable Rikers & How to Power a City

Costa Constantinides, former City Councilmember. CEO of Variety Boys and Girls Club
Darren Mack, Freedom Agenda
Rebecca Bratspies, Professor CUNY School of Law
Melanie LaRosa, filmmaker and professor
Event by: CUNY Center for Urban Environmental reform
1 hour 30 minutes

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM EDT
CUNY Law School, 2 Court Square ,LIC ,Room 1/203

United States

See the transformation

The infamous jail on Rikers Island is a household name synonymous with violence, alienation, and deep injustice. The jail will close forever in 2027. This event outlines the proposed transformation of Rikers Island into renewable infrastructure, including a solar farm. Confronting the island’s racist past is key to determining its future. Through Renewable Rikers, Rikers Island will be transformed from one of the nation’s worst sites for social injustice to a solar farm, battery array, and environmental justice victory. Renewable Rikers includes investments in jobs and infrastructure that will employ New Yorkers and reduce pollution and waste in environmental justice communities, particularly in adjacent areas of Queens and the Bronx.

Rikers Island is toxic by every conceivable measure. It was created by dumping trash from Manhattan into the East River in the 1800's, and continues to offgas methane today. The island bears the name of a slave-holding family with a deeply racist history. One prominent member participated in schemes to capture free Black New Yorkers as well as Black people who escaped slavery and send them to the South to be enslaved.

The closure of Rikers Island Jail is a tremendous opportunity for transformation. Renewable Rikers will make the island a site for regeneration, restoration, and environmental justice. Through Renewable Rikers, the small island between the Bronx and Queens will become a solar farm with battery storage. This will allow New York City to take dirty peaker plants offline and improve air quality in overburdened communities by significantly reducing air pollution. It will also move wastewater infrastructure from the Bronx to the island, further reducing pollution for Bronx residents.

Developed by advocates from the environmental justice and decarceration movements, an overwhelming City Council majority codified Renewable Rikers into local law in 2020. Since then, NYC has taken initial steps to make Renewable Rikers a reality.

The documentary “How To Power A City” caught on camera a portion of the process of enacting Renewable Rikers. The film features Astoria residents who fought for clean air and renewable energy for decades, which built into efforts to pass the Renewable Rikers bill.

This event includes screening a short segment from the documentary and a discussion about Renewable Rikers. Planned participants include former City Councilmember Costa Constantinides, filmmaker Melanie LaRosa, Darren Mack from Freedom Agenda, and CUNY Law professor Rebecca Bratspies.