Rikers Being Studied for Wastewater Facility


According to city records, the New York city Department of Environmental Protection recently awarded a contract to Jacobs Civil Consultants to study the possibility of constructing a new Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility on Rikers Island. The $2.9 million contract is reportedly expected to last through 2023.

The study comes as new jails are slated to replace the aging facilities on Rikers Island, which will close permanently in 2027.

Wastewater Facility Study

As part of the bills passed in 2019 to ensure that regenerative and environmentally conscious uses for Rikers Island will be thoroughly assessed and considered, the DEP is required to conduct a feasibility study to assess building a consolidated WRRF on Rikers.

Currently, the DEP operates 14 WRRFs across all five boroughs, treating over 1.3 billion gallons of water each day. However, the conditions of the aging facilities and other challenges reportedly indicated that consolidation would be a solution to meet the city’s water quality, energy efficiency and resiliency goals.

For the study, the proposed facility would consolidate four aging upper East River wastewater facilities into one modern center, which would operate more efficiently than the existing ones. Additionally, it would produce fertilizer, non-potable water and renewable energy, DEP officials told the Engineering News-Record.

The four facilities being studied by Jacobs include Bowery Bay, Hunt’s Point, Tallman Island and Wards Island, which are nearly 100 years old. These wastewater resource recover facilities also use outdated high-energy equipment and are in need of significant work that would be challenging due to limited space.

Consolidating the facilities would allow the DEP to incorporate state-of-the-art technology to maximize energy efficiency and beneficial use of treatment waste products like biogas. Jacobs reports that the new facility could assist with NYC’s sustainability goals, including greenhouse gas reduction, carbon neutrality and energy efficiency.

“This is a transformational opportunity to consider how to drive social equity, redefine the city's landscape and create a legacy for NYC residents—all while providing a blueprint for how future water infrastructure projects can serve as catalysts for urban revitalization,” Gary Morris, Jacobs' Senior Vice President of People and Places Solutions, said in a statement.

Preliminary drawings from the consultant firm show that conveyance tunnels from the four existing facilities would converge at a pumping station on the northwestern side of the island. Jacobs explained that the sites of the existing facilities that would be replaced could then be used for other waterfront properties.

“The Reimagined Rikers Island WRRF poses an opportunity to advance New York’s wastewater treatment capabilities and make strides toward fiscal and environmental sustainability,” writes the DEP.

Rikers Project History

The closing of Rikers was first announced by former mayor Bill de Blasio in April 2017—a capital project involving a 10-year plan—that would close the eight facilities on the island and build four smaller facilities in locations around the city.

In March 2018, former governor Andrew Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David penned an outline to New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson proposing New York City allow design-builds for all capital projects.

Through a design-build, one team (often a joint venture or partnership) is responsible for the design phase through construction, streamlining large projects into one contract.

Prior to David’s proposal, legislation for expanding design-build as an option for more agencies and municipalities in New York had failed to pass entirely. However, at the time it was proposed once more, big projects planned such as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Rikers Island were forming, stressing various time crunches.

“[If] the city was aggressive in expediting the closing of Rikers, they would request design/build authorization for construction of the new jails,” David’s letter read.

By February of 2019, de Blasio and his administration announced a new initiative, “Strategic Blueprint for Construction Excellence,” which included a design-build strategy, among others, in effort to control construction costs and reduce schedule times of capital projects.

“We are overhauling operations in order to deliver City capital projects more efficiently and within budget,” de Blasio said in a press release. “This plan will ensure critical infrastructure projects are finished faster and with less disruption to our neighborhoods.”

Then, in June, the DDC awarded a $107.4 million contract to the joint venture of AECOM and Hill International for the program and project management of the work.

AECOM-Hill is in charge of structuring the upcoming procurement, developing program requirements and managing the chosen design-build teams.

Moving forward in the $107.4 million contract, JV AECOM-Hill will be tasked with the following:

  • Creation of procedures, protocols, forms and program and project manuals for all aspects of the design-build program;
  • Development of procurement strategies and protocols;
  • Creation of program- and project-specific virtual document and payment control systems;
  • Preparation and management of industry outreach strategies;
  • Preparation of specifications and criteria for each design-build project;
  • Monitor the design-build teams’ minority- and women-owned business enterprise requirements;
  • Management of the four jail projects until closeout of each; and
  • Quality assurance/quality control services.

In February 2020, the DDC issued a Request for Qualifications for design-build teams interested in constructing the new facilities in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. At the time the RFQ was issued, the DDC reported that there were seven anticipated contracts: three for early work in Brooklyn and Queens, such as the demolition of an existing jail, and four for the construction of the new jails themselves.

By June of last year, it was reported that heavy construction on the project at the site in Queens had officially launched. A new parking garage and 25,000-square-foot community space is expected to reach completion by fall 2022.

In a press release issued in December, de Blasio and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) announced that they had reviewed and approved six teams to develop detailed proposals to design and construct four modern, smaller, humane borough-based jails.

The firms will now prepare responses to an RFP for each site. The RFP also asks the design-build teams to provide more detail on their approaches for designing and constructing the new facilities, including how the team will achieve the vision for the humane facilities and innovative approaches to ensure efficient, cost-effective construction.

Following the RFP process, two firms will be selected as the sole respondents for Manhattan and Queens, respectively, based on evaluations of their SOQs. In addition, two firms will be selected to compete for the Brooklyn facility and two will compete to design and build the Bronx facility.

Due to restricted time and resources required to prepare detailed RFP responses, stipends will be provided to firms who are not selected to work on one of the facilities.

According to reports, work will already be underway at all four sites throughout this process as design-build contracts for dismantling of existing structures and site preparation were all registered at the end of December.

In Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, the design-build teams will dismantle existing facilities on the sites and construct temporary “swing spaces” to facilitate NYC Department of Correction’s transfers of detainees for court appearances during construction. At the Bronx site, where the former Lincoln Hospital used to be located, the design-build team will remove debris from the old hospital and perform environmental testing to prepare the site for future work.

The entire $8.2 billion program is to be handed over to the Department of Correction in 2027.


Tagged categories: Carbon footprint; Contracts; Emissions; Environmental Controls; Government; Government contracts; Green Infrastructure; NA; non-potable water; North America; Prisons; Program/Project Management; Sustainability; Upcoming projects; Wastewater Plants; Water/Wastewater

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