Gowanus braces for parole office

Gowanus braces for parole office
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Brooklyn’s parole headquarters is headed for Gowanus, and the local community board is preparing for a fight from neighbors apprehensive about an influx of former prisoners to the industrial neighborhood.

The state plans to move the borough’s parole offices to 15 Second Ave., between Fifth Street and the Gowanus Canal, across the fetid inlet from Whole Foods Market, which is likely to draw the ire of residents, who have heard nothing about it until now, an administrator for Community Board 6 said.

“It certainly has the potential to be controversial,” said district manager Craig Hammerman. “The general reaction has been that people are just as surprised as we were.”

Upon learning of the impending move, Hammerman penned a letter to the state Department of Corrections and Community Services, voicing his concern that the office will threaten the industrial character of the area, though the building in question is zoned for commercial use. Hammerman said he is reaching out to the state to talk about its plans.

The building’s property manager penned a letter to the community board on July 2 touting the facility, claiming it has been hard for the prisons agency to find enough space to house it, the parolee reporting part of which currently makes its home on Livingston Street, between Flatbush Avenue and Nevins Street in Downtown. The letter stressed that the office serves a crucial function in reintegrating ex-offenders with their communities, but also pointed out that no special permissions are needed to proceed.

“The DOCCS facility fulfills a critical community need, providing meeting space for parolees and parole officers, and assisting with their transition into the community,” wrote Chaim Simkowitz. “The State of New York cannot allow the Brooklyn area to operate without a DOCCS presence, and due to the difficulties of finding a suitable location, we are very excited that we were able to obtain the necessary permitting and approvals to expedite this process.”

The new parole headquarters is slated to employ 150, a department spokesman said. The workers will move from three borough locations, the spokesman said. The consolidation will make the operation more efficient, he said.

“It will obviously be easier to have everyone in one place,” he said.

The Department of Buildings issued a permit in March for alterations that would add two stories to the existing one-story building, and construction began recently.

The buildings department forced crews to stop work on July 3 after finding illegal crane work underway, but withdrew the order on Wednesday, according to public records.

The parole office does not yet have a move-in date, the spokesman said.

Simkowitz did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz