Council Member Rory Lancman debated Assistant District Attorney James Quinn on the future of Rikers Island Wednesday. // Eagle photo by David Brand 

Debate Highlights Contrasting Views On Rikers’ Future — And On Justice Reform

Council Member Rory Lancman faced off against Queens Assistant District Attorney James Quinn in a heated debate about the future of Rikers Island at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills Wednesday night.

Of the many accusations, complicated budget scenarios and impassioned declarations volleyed back and forth between the two men and audience members, one exchange seemed to crystallize the fundamental difference of opinion on the future of the massive jail complex — and on broader criminal justice reform.

During his opening statement, Quinn, speaking for Queens Defense Attorney Richard Brown and the D.A.’s office, critiqued efforts to close Rikers as a “movement.”

“A movement doesn’t look at details,” Quinn said, before outlining budget underestimations and hammering what he considered impracticalities, like where the city would house inmates during the development of four proposed “borough-based” jails.

An hour later, Lancman addressed the specific statement in his closing remarks.  

“The effort to close Rikers Island is a movement,” Lancman said. “It’s part of a larger movement to reform a criminal justice system that is dysfunctional, broken and overwhelmingly falls on the backs of poor people.”

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It’s Lancman vs. Quinn at Civic Association’s Rikers Debate

The debate over what to do with Rikers Island has roiled Queens and one community in particular stands to experience the biggest impact from the city’s plan to close the massive jail complex.

Kew Gardens, home to the now-vacant Queens House of Detention, would absorb more than 1,500 Rikers inmates, according to the city’s proposal — a notion that has encountered split reactions from residents.

Thus, with community members divided and uncertain about the plan, the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association will host a debate featuring two prominent voices on either side of the issue at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills on Sept. 5.

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Queens County Criminal Court // Eagle photo by David Brand

Queens DA Race Heats Up With Lasak Resignation

In the days since Queens Criminal Court Justice Gregory Lasak decided to step down from his position effective Sept. 14, the race for district attorney has begun to heat up.

The decision to leave the Supreme Court bench enables Lasak to begin fundraising ahead of a potential candidacy for Queens County District Attorney in 2019. As of press time, Lasak did not respond to requests for comment.

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Queens County Criminal Court // Eagle photo by David Brand

Justice Lasak Set To Resign Sept. 14

Queens Criminal Court Justice Gregory Lasak will step down from his position effective Sept. 14, according to multiple sources familiar with the decision.

The decision to leave the Supreme Court bench enables Lasak to begin fundraising ahead of a potential candidacy for Queens County District Attorney in 2019.

District Attorney Richard A. Brown, 85, has held the office since 1991 and is reportedly considering retiring at the end of his current term.

Lasak, a former prosecutor in the Queens D.A.’s office, was elected Criminal Court justice in 2003 and began his first term 2004. He was reelected in 2017.

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