Hard cell: City still hoping to lure shoppers to jail


The city marched out a new look for the Brooklyn House of Detention this week, hoping to draw new interest in a jailhouse retail plan that hasn’t gotten off the ground.

Two years into a debate about reopening and expanding the jail — and adding ground-floor retail to the mix — Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn showed off the city’s glitzy vision for the Atlantic Avenue lockup.

From the renderings, it’s hard to even tell that the 11 stories above the fancy retail spaces would house 1,400 prisoners when the jail is expected to reopen in 2012.

The commercial component of the city’s jail plan is supposed to make the expansion appealing to the nearby community, which has already rejected a proposed public middle school for the space, and real-estate developers, who rejected another proposal to flank the jail with residential towers.

The new images are more than a calling card for new retailers, but part of the a vision for modern jailing that seeks to integrate jails into neighborhoods.

“The city made a mistake by locating jails on Rikers Island,” said Deputy Correction Commissioner Stephen Morello. “The alternative is modern jails close to the communities the inmates come from.”

Back on Atlantic Avenue, they’ll have more access to lawyers, families and social-service providers. Plus, it cuts down on travel costs incurred by the city whenever a prisoner needs to make a court appearance.

But don’t get your hopes up about that Trader Joe’s in the drawing. The retailer is just “a placeholder,” said a city official speaking off-the-record.

“It could have been any number of things,” he added.

The trendy grocer is actually prepping its first Brooklyn store one block away, at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street.


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