NYC community cleans up Rikers Island garden for staff

Despite the sweltering July humidity and the knee-deep weeds, Department of Corrections staff, advocates and community members spent the day cleaning up gardens at Rikers Island.
"This will be a space for staff, we have other gardens that are for incarcerated people. The staff need peace, they need relaxation," says DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi.
Queens's Councilmember Adrienne Adams, who's mother was a corrections officer at Rikers, says it’s important in such a stressful place to have a realm of respite.
"Some place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle and stress and strife and worries. It's just someplace where you can just have a zen moment," she adds.
Creating these zen spaces, the commissioner says, is all part of a reboot and rebirth after such a difficult time during the pandemic.
The cleanup effort is also a step toward unity. The commissioner says sometimes there's an "us vs. them" feeling between staff and advocacy groups. But when asked to fix up the garden, they didn't hesitate.
There are six total gardens on Rikers Island - two for staff wellness that are being cleaned up Tuesday and the other four for those who are incarcerated are slowly beginning to reopen.