(House of) Detention deficit disorder

Hard cell: Plan could put condos at jail
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

The city comptroller has delayed Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to renovate and reopen the Brooklyn House of Detention by saying that the costs for an initial portion of the project had almost doubled without a detailed explanation.

Specifically, Comptroller Bill Thompson, a rival of Bloomberg’s in the mayoral election later this year, rejected a $31.3-million contract to the project’s architect.

“A thorough review of this contract has resulted in a litany of problems, including extreme miscalculations of cost estimates and missing documentation from the agencies involved,” Thompson told the Department of Correction last week.

An earlier estimate from the department said architects’ fees would be $16 million.

The comptroller also wagged a finger at the agency for inconsistent estimates in the contract paperwork about the cost of the entire renovation and expansion, which Thompson’s office found ranged from $400 million to $450 million.

The comptroller, an outspoken critic of the mayor’s proposal to double and reopen the Atlantic Avenue slammer, fumed that the cost is now $200 million more than originally expected, but the price tag is largely unchanged since last April when the city formally accepted bids for the project.

The Department of Design and Construction, which oversees the work until construction is complete, did not sound fazed by the comptroller’s decision and treated it as a resolvable bookkeeping issue.

“[The department] will submit a thorough response to the comptroller that addresses these issues and we trust that the contract will be approved,” said Deputy Commissioner Matthew Monahan.

The architecture firm, Ricci Greene Associates, declined to comment.

The disruption of the contract is another blow to the controversial attempt to boost capacity to 1,500 inmates at the House of D, which until November had not held overnight prisoners since 2003 (now a work crew of about 35 inmates is detained there.)

Critics will point out that the comptroller has a conflict of interest in the jail debate, as he is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit trying to block the enlargement.

He also has said that the city should demolish the jail and sell the land to a real-estate developer.