NYIC and Freedom Agenda Call for Permanent Closure of The Boat and the Rikers Island Jails

New York, NY—Gothamist first reported last week that the Department of Correction will close the Vernon C. Bain Center (aka The Boat) in October, an 800-bed floating jail docked in Hunts Point in the Bronx. In response, the New York City Immigration Coalition and Freedom Agenda released the following statements.

“For the last thirty years, The Boat was used to inhumanely jail New Yorkers in conditions that no human being should be subjected to. It is imperative that we put this cruel legacy to an end once and for all – The Boat should never again be used to house anyone. Asylum seekers, like all New Yorkers, deserve a dignified place to live. For this reason, The Boat as a temporary shelter would be a ridiculous and expensive band-aid that ignores the death and trauma that place has caused. We know that providing permanent housing to asylum seekers using housing vouchers, like CityFHEPS, costs a fraction of the price of opening emergency shelters and would save the City $3 billion annually, while putting people on the path to self-reliance. While the Mayor is demanding 15% budget cuts across all agencies, which the Fiscal Policy Institute says is based on exaggerated estimates, it would be extremely perplexing for the Adams administration to keep floating ideas that range from bad to worse. A perfectly sound and affordable solution to our shelter crisis exists, if only the Mayor would implement it,” said Theodore Moore, Vice President of Policy & Programs, New York Immigration Coalition. 

“Our members know from experience that neither The Boat nor Rikers Island are places where any human should be housed. The Boat opened in 1992 to expand jail capacity when New York City was caging nearly 20,000 people on an average day, and it was supposed to be temporary. People detained there have compared the stifling conditions to a modern day slave ship – the only natural light inside comes through tiny portholes that cannot be opened. Closing The Boat is long overdue, but its closure should have come as the result of a commitment to invest in housing, healthcare, jobs and education to reduce incarceration and close Rikers Island. Shifting people to the same hellish conditions on Rikers is not the answer. Now that The Boat is empty, the City should sink this relic of mass incarceration and human rights abuses, as candidate Eric Adams said he wanted to do. The City should not for a moment consider housing migrants on The Boat, or Rikers,” said Darren Mack, Co-Director, Freedom Agenda.