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

Lancman, Legal Aid Condemn ADA’s Browder Comments

In the days since Council Member Rory Lancman and Queens Senior Executive Assistant District Attorney James Quinn debated about the future of Rikers Island, one specific exchange about Kalief Browder has garnered national attention.

While defending the proposal to close jails on Rikers Island and open four “borough-based” jails, Lancman — a potential candidate in the 2019 Queens DA race — frequently described how the bail system keeps low-income defendants in detention simply because they cannot afford to the pay bail.

He cited the experience of Browder, a 16-year-old from the Bronx who was arrested for stealing a backpack and held on Rikers for three years — including two in solitary confinement — because he could not afford to pay bail. Ultimately, Browder’s C Felony charges were dismissed.

Two years after his release, Browder committed suicide.

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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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