|NYC DOC Boldest web pages in early 1997 featured a photo-illustrated report on Mayor Giuliani's New Year Day visit to Rikers. Among jails seen was James A. Thomas Center, the island's oldest. It opened in the mid-1930s as the new city Penitentiary replacing the fortess-like structure on then-Welfare Island, the former Blackwells now Roosevelt Island.|
The text and images below are from that early 1997 Boldest web page now in the digital archives maintained by the New York Correction History Society.
Mayor Starts '97 With Rikers Visit
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on New Year's Day 1997 visited Rikers Island's uniformed and civilian members of the Department of Correction to thank them for their service to New Yorkers. The Mayor also took the opportunity to highlight the decrease in the City's crime rate, specifically the murder rate which has dropped below 1,000 for the first time since 1968.
His Rikers visit was part of a tour to city workers and volunteers at six locations throughout the five boroughs to ring in 1997 on a note of recognition and appreciation. He also visited the Hatsolah Volunteer Ambulance Corps in Brooklyn, Staten Island's ferry terminal, the 44th Precinct in the Bronx, Engine Co. 53 and Ladder Co. 43 in Manhattan, and an EMS Station at Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan.
The Mayor's first stop mid-morning on Rikers was Chief of Department Eric M. Taylor's trailer where uniformed officers from each of the island's various facilities and specialized units were assembled. Keeping with his custom for such visits, the Mayor brought with him a supply of brightly-wrapped holiday cookies and an upbeat message:
"As we begin the New Year, the City's crime rate is at its lowest level since the 1960s. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have not been victimized and are living healthier and happier lives because of the fine work by you and your co-workers in Correction and by your law enforcement colleagues in the Police Department, the Courts and prosecutors' offices. . . While New York City is achieving historic crime declines, it has also experienced a year of record tourism. Business and jobs are returning.
He stressed a theme that he has aired on a number of occasions -- that the role of Correction in helping reduce crime deserves more recognition from the public.
After adding a personal word of encouragement and best wishes for the New Year, the Mayor then visited with Emergency Response Unit officers and viewed their equipment.
After JATC, the Mayor returned to the Chief's trailer where he meet with the news media. Following the press conference, Mr. Giuliani extended his visit on Rikers by adding an unscheduled stop at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center (OBCC). There, he visited the Control Room, the officers' mess hall, and a Central Punitive Segregation Unit (CPSU) housing area. Again, he shook hands of uniformed and civilian staffers along the way.
The mayoral visit lasted about two hours, more than twice the time allotted on his advance schedule, demonstrating by his actions what his words had expressed: regard, interest and appreciation of the job Correction people perform.
-- Thomas McCarthy, NYCHS webmaster