De Blasio says he’ll tour NYC’s troubled Rikers Island next week after pressure from Eric Adams, other politicians

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Took him long enough.

Mayor de Blasio promised Friday that he will visit Rikers Island next week for the first time in over four years, caving to mounting political pressure as deteriorating conditions at the jail stand to become a national embarrassment for the city.

Speaking during his weekly appearance on WNYC, de Blasio claimed his decision was not influenced by calls from a laundry list of local politicians to visit the island already.

“I don’t care how many people call for something. I got to do what I think is right,” he said. “The right thing to do is to fix the problems, put my best energies there. Now, I’ll go see if those solutions are working.”

Hizzoner declined to immediately reveal the day of his visit, but said he’ll be joined by First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan and Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi.

De Blasio’s announcement came minutes after Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the city’s likely next mayor, became the latest public official to call on him to tour Rikers.

“Yes, he should do a walk-through,” Adams told reporters during an unrelated event in Brooklyn. “He should bring all of his top commissioners and deputy mayors to walk through and say: Look what failed policies have produced in our city for decades. Because those men and women at Rikers Island is an indictment on our city, not on this administration only — but on every administration.”

De Blasio last visited Rikers in June 2017.

Pressure for him to tour Rikers again began to build after a group of state lawmakers visited the lockup on Sept. 13 and described witnessing a “humanitarian crisis,” with inmates being held in overcrowded pens without access to food, water or medication, sometimes for days on end. The lawmakers also said jail hallways were lined with human feces, rotting food and dead cockroaches.

Amid the deplorable conditions, 11 inmates have died on Rikers since December. A 12th inmate held in city Correction Department custody died Wednesday onboard a jail barge docked just north of Rikers.

Though he’s agreeing to finally tour the jail, de Blasio said he considers the visit “symbolism,” not “substantive work.”

“There are different approaches to leadership. Some people, honestly, bluntly, are heavy on the symbolism,” he said. “That’s great, I get it. My approach, for better or worse, is I want to solve the problem.”

Nonetheless, de Blasio has been reluctant to take aggressive action to fix Rikers.

He has bucked calls for him to use his authority under the so-called 6A program to release inmates locked up for non-violent offenses. He has also rejected more sweeping proposals from progressive Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently said all of Rikers’ roughly 6,000 inmates should be released immediately.

Rather, de Blasio has said the Rikers population will be thinned out by the “Less Is More Act,” a bill recently signed by Gov. Hochul that paves the way for the release of hundreds of inmates locked up on technical parole violations, though most of them likely won’t be freed until 2022.

De Blasio also laid out a five-point Rikers plan last week focused mostly on punishing correction officers who call out sick without documentation amid revelations about mass-absenteeism in their ranks.

Another aspect of the plan has been to reopen shuttered facilities on the island to alleviate crowding, even as de Blasio presses ahead with a push to close down Rikers for good by 2027.

The mayor has also pointed fingers at the state court system, claiming its decision to not operate at full capacity due to COVID-19 has left the city with no choice but to keep sending people to the already overcrowded jail pending trial.

The spiraling situation has prompted dozens of lawmakers and experts to call on the federal government to take over control of the jail.

Steve Martin, a federally-appointed monitor of conditions at Rikers, recommended Friday that the city bring in outside help to resolve the crisis, citing “poor management” and “systemic dysfunction.”

Eight Democratic members of New York’s congressional delegation, including House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, agreed with Martin and asked President Biden’s administration on Friday to provide “immediate federal intervention” to stabilize the Rikers crisis.

“We cannot continue to allow Rikers Island to deteriorate to the point that it is no longer a safe place for those in custody or those who work in the jails,” the congressional members wrote in a letter to Biden. “We are neglecting to meet our responsibility to care for incarcerated New Yorkers with dignity and respect.”

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