Borough President Adams demands smaller borough jail

CB2 leaders criticize city’s delay of House of D community guidelines
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The city should expand the Brooklyn House of Detention jail facility in Boerum Hill — but not to the extent that Mayor Bill de Blasio is requesting under a current rezoning proposal, according to Borough President Eric Adams.

The Beep on Wednesday issued a purely advisory recommendation for a facility that would replace the Atlantic Avenue holding facility, asking that the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice and the Department of Corrections reduce the proposed building’s height from 395 feet to 235 feet, and from 1,437 beds to 900 beds. The jail currently houses 815 beds and is 170 feet tall at 11 stories.

As borough president, Adam’s was asked to weigh in on the proposed detention center as part of a roughly yearlong public-review process. The new jail is an aspect of de Blasio’s $8.7 billion scheme to close down New York City’s personal brand of hell on earth — Rikers Island — by 2026, and relocate inmates to four new facilities located in every borough except Staten Island.

The borough president applauded the mayor’s borough-based jail plan, which will keep inmates closer to court and nearer to home, but said any scheme to improve the circumstance of prisoners must accommodate the needs of local residents.

“We have listened closely to all stakeholders throughout this process, and have put forward a recommendation that balances the needs of the community with the imperative of making our criminal justice system more humane for all, something all sides have agreed is critical,” he said in a statement.

Adam’s recommendation echoed a symbolic resolution passed by Community Board 2 on June 12 demanding the building’s proposed size and population be reduced, although the beep didn’t go quite as for as the civic group, which requested a more modest 875 bed cap.

The borough president rejected the city’s scheme to reserve ground floor space at the new prison for commercial retail businesses, saying those units should be reserved exclusively for community use.

He did side with the city over community board members on the issue of building a Staten Island jail — an idea that city officials have repeatedly shot down, arguing that there aren’t enough jailed people from The Rock to justify a separate facility.

His recommendation also does not include the civic panel’s demand for a new facility to train corrections officers, nor did he advise funneling some of the funds toward affordable housing, as community members had requested.

He proposed that the city form an advisory group of local community and business groups, politicians, and other stakeholders that would meet regularly with officials to give their input on the building’s design and operations.

The Borough President also advised connecting the criminal justice arms of city government with hospitals and psychiatric institutions for inmates with substance misuse and mental health issues, which the beep said could be done with the city’s Health + Hospital system as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s health initiative “Vital Brooklyn.”

Adams — a noted fitness fanatic — laid out a slate of his own wellness ideas to help jailed people succeed once they’re released, including a plant-based diet and yoga, as well as expanding childcare and job training programs.

The beep’s recommendation follows a recently announced decision by the Mayor’s criminal justice division to reduce their target to 1,150 beds per site due to recently-passed statewide bail reform, according to spokeswoman Alacia Lauer.

The city’s combined plan for all four jails now moves to the Department of City Planning, which has formed a 13-person panel which will give the first binding vote within 60 days after its hearing Wednesday, before it moves before the City Council for a final vote.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Downsize: Borough President Eric Adams shared his purely advisory recommendations to scale back the borough-based jail the city proposes to build at Boerum Hill's House of Detention on July 9.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini