Gowanus residents: Ex-prisoners not welcome here

Gowanus braces for parole office
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Their sentence is life with parole.

Dozens of Gowanus residents turned out to a community meeting on Monday night to lambast representatives of the state prison system for keeping secret plans to consolidate all of Brooklyn’s parole offices into a three-story headquarters where Second Avenue dead-ends at the Gowanus Canal. Some neighbors said the 5,000 parolees prison reps said will be reporting to the new facility — 300–400 of them per day — will inundate the area with crime.

“This will be bringing an entirely new element into the neighborhood,” said an agitated Denise Amses, a local business owner, speaking from the back of the crowded meeting room. “You can’t say this will make the neighborhood safe. It already is a safe neighborhood. This will absolutely change that.”

The facility under construction at 15 Second Ave. is on track to open in January, prison reps said at the meeting, but neighbors only became aware of it in July, when this paper broke news of the plan. The disclosure came a full year after the reps said the state inked a contract for the project. The lack of notice further infuriated locals.

“Please give us the respect of telling us that this is happening to our face,” said Matthew Fairley, emphasizing that he is not against the parole complex itself.

The four representatives on hand from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which oversees parolees, apologized for the way outreach has been handled but made it clear that the project is moving full speed ahead. As for security concerns, they said that former inmates will be coming to Gowanus to fill out paperwork, not to do things that will send them back to jail.

“People are not going to be coming there with ill intent,” said Thomas Herzog, a deputy commissioner in the department.

And if somebody does try stepping out of line, Herzog said that between the metal detectors and the 120 armed “peace officers” that will be on hand, it will get handled. The pledge did not set councilman and gun control advocate Brad Lander (D–Gowanus) at ease.

“I don’t want 120 armed peace officers in the neighborhood!” Lander yelled.

Nor did the crowd seem mollified when one prison spokeswoman said the only major incident she has experienced was in 2010, when a paroled murderer shot his parole officer point blank in the Downtown office.

The prison delegation kept its cool for the most part, but at one point none of the state officials present could come up with the name of the building’s owner. They shuffled through papers in search of a clue but ultimately moved on to the next question without answering. The owner is Chaim Simkowitz of Guardian Realty Management, a Kensington real estate firm.

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