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‘House’ fire! Thompson blocks Bloomy again at jail

Comptroller Bill Thompson, a critic of the city’s plan to reopen the Brooklyn House of Detention, spoke to reporters outside the jail on Monday.
The Brooklyn Paper / Mike McLaughlin

Mayor Bloomberg’s contentious plan to reopen and expand the Brooklyn House of Detention suffered another setback on Monday when city Comptroller Bill Thompson blocked the project, citing a “corruptive” bidding process in awarding a $31.3-million contract.

“[The city] looked like it favored one bidder over many others,” Thompson said about the Bloomberg Administration’s “corruptive process” that led to the selection of the architecture firm Ricci Greene Associates to design a restoration and enlargement for the House of D.

The comptroller, who is running against the mayor this fall for the city’s top job, said he dismissed the deal because:

• The city inadequately explained why the entire project’s price tag jumped from $240 million to $450 million.

• The firm did not meet the city’s experience requirements, even as other bidders that did were excluded.

• Ricci Greene was sued for malpractice by upstate Orange County for problems at a jail there.

The comptroller’s dismissal comes less than two weeks after a state judge ruled the city can fill the existing 759-bed jail at any time — though plans to roughly double the prison’s capacity must undergo environmental review.

Officials from the Department of Design and Construction lashed back at Thompson’s reasoning for canceling the contract, which was originally pegged on rough estimates of the eventual cost to build a second tower for the site that closed in 2005.

“As the comptroller well knows, agencies routinely use budget placeholders until they can bring in design services to get a more accurate estimate,” said Matthew Monahan, an agency.

He added that the bidding process was open to qualified builders, and that the lawsuit against Ricci Greene involved a “minor” water pipe break.

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