City moves ahead on Brooklyn jail

Officials from the city’s Department of Correction (DOC) said this week that it’s full-speed ahead on the renovation of the Brooklyn House of Detention.

The city wants to double the 759-bed jail at 275 Atlantic Avenue.

“Our position is the jail is already open and operating,” said DOC spokesperson Stephen Morello. “We have 11 inmates there currently and hundreds that go to court through the Brooklyn jail every day.”

Morello’s comments came after former Comptroller William Thompson spent his last day in office signing off on a $34 million design contract that would advance the project.

Thompson’s signature came after the Bloomberg administration and the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) sued Thompson to compel him to sign off on the contract as per his job to get the ball rolling on the planned $440 million expansion.

Previously, Thompson sided with local residents along the burgeoning Atlantic Avenue corridor that neither the expansion nor the jail were needed, and that selling the facility would bring the city much needed revenue and help better the neighborhood.

The city and the DOC countered that more than a quarter of the city’s roughly 13,000 inmates on Rikers Island come from the borough, and that inmates would be closer to family and attorneys if housed in the borough facility.

Additionally, these officials argue the Brooklyn jail has an underground tunnel leading directly to the criminal courts and housing them there will save money from transporting inmates back and forth from Rikers for court appearances.

The two sides went to court last year on the issue and a split decision was rendered in which the court upheld the city’s right to reuse the jail, but said it could not expand it without going through the city’s land use review procedure (ULURP).

The DDC contact would start the ULURP process on the city’s part, but local residents remain against its expansion.

“The community board has opposed the expansion of the jail,” said Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris. “My understanding of the lawsuit is that they can’t expands the jail without going through ULURP. They can do renovations on the existing building, but they are not able to expand the jail without a ULURP process.”