By Maria Rocha-Buschel
City Councilmember Keith Powers is getting in the swing of things in the Council, having been appointed chair of the Criminal Justice Services committee by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson last Thursday.
Powers said that the committee will likely meet about once a month and one of the major issues will be on the possible closure of Riker’s Island. The committee will be discussing how the city should deal with the long-term future of the facility and whether it should be closed or transformed.
“In closing one of the largest jails in the country, we would have to make sure we have alternatives and options for folks afterwards when they get out,” he said. “The point is to rehabilitate people so they’re prepared for the real world, for the workforce or offer literacy, and want to make sure people have a menu of options and so they can have a peaceful life.”
Powers said that aside from Riker’s, the committee will also deal with smaller-scale issues, such as how New Yorkers interact with the criminal justice system.
“There’s a long-held belief that people are waiting a long time to get into court and get to trial and we want to look for ways for the city to make that process shorter,” he said.
Powers was also appointed to additional committees, including Economic Development, Finance, Oversight and Investigations, Government Operations, Health and Public Safety. He said that he wanted to get involved in these specific committees because of their importance for the district.
“The Health Committee covers issues from the hospital system to reproductive health and we have so many doctors and nurses in the area, that has a big impact for the district,” he said.
The Oversight Investigations Committee is new to the Council, Powers said, and will give Councilmembers the opportunity to conduct investigations within City Council concerning property, affairs and government.
“It’s the largest addition of power to the Council in quite some time,” he said.
Powers noted that working on the Finance Committee will give him the opportunity to weigh in on a number of different projects across city agencies.
“The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over every single agency because (the agencies) have to come to the Council to ask for money,” he said. “The Department of Transportation will be coming to the Council (because of plans for the L train shutdown) and we’ll be meeting with every single agency that will say, ‘we need more funding for XYZ.’ We get to offer insight on where money should be spent at any time.”