Jailhouse rocks Downtown: Mayor floats controversial plan to build massive new jail on Centre Street

The city is considering retrofitting the Marriage Bureau building on Centre Street into a jail, as part of Mayor de Blasio’s plan to close Riker’s Island, and increase the city’s supply of cynical metaphors.
Photo by Colin Mixson


Talk about a ball and chain!

Mayor de Blasio is considering a plan to convert the city’s Marriage Bureau in Lower Manhattan into a prison complex as part of his scheme to shutter the city’s main jail Riker’s Island.

Emissaries from City Hall unveiled the plan to retrofit 80 Centre St. into a jail before a hodgepodge group of civic gurus — including reps from community boards 1 and 3, and the Chinatown Partnership — at a meeting on Aug. 2.

The announcement follows Mayor de Blasio’s declaration last year that he would push to close Rikers Island — which houses roughly 10,000 inmates, the majority of whom are being held in lieu of bail as they await trial — and that his plan included building separate, smaller prison facilities located next to courthouses in each borough except Staten Island.

In addition to the Marriage Bureau and City Clerk’s Office — where couples can swing by for drop-in marriage service — the 80 Centre St. building between Worth Street and Hogan Place is also conveniently located adjacent to Manhattan Criminal Court and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, in addition to being just down the street from the notorious Manhattan Detention Complex — aka “The Tombs” — located at 125 White St.

The plan is still in its early stages, but could see the building rise up to 40 stories, and could even include some affordable housing units in addition to the jail facility.

Before moving forward, however, the proposal would have to undergo an extensive public review process ending in a vote by the City Council, where local legislators can be expected to follow the lead of Councilwoman Margaret Chin, whose district includes 80 Centre St, according to Community Board 1 Chairman Anthony Notaro.

“She’ll be a major stakeholder,” said Notaro, who was present at the Aug. 2 meeting.

Local community leaders hope to use the city’s need for Chin’s endorsement as leverage to force City Hall to sweeten the pot with potential amenities, such as community centers and additional transit infrastructure to help alleviate the project’s infrastructure burden on the area, according to Notaro.

“We’ll have to figure out what makes sense, what the plan would be, and what type of benefit there would be for the community,” he said.

But the city isn’t putting all it rotten eggs in the 80 Centre St. basket — it’s also considering a plan to expand the nearby Manhattan Detention Complex accommodate more prisoners.

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