Lock ’em up: City plan would put middle school in Brooklyn House of Detention

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

The city wants to open a new middle school — in jail.

Developers responded so weakly to a city invitation for ideas for retail and residential use at the soon-to-reopen Brooklyn House of Detention that the city is now considering putting a middle school in the space.

For months, the city has said it plans to reopen — and double the capacity of — the 11-story, 750-inmate Big House on Atlantic Avenue between Smith Street and Boerum Place.

But last year, when the city solicited bids for ground-floor shops in the infamous holding pen, retailers showed only lukewarm interest.

Besides the weak response from retailers, only one developer submitted a bid to build a residential tower adjacent to the soon-to-reopen jail.

As a result, Corrections Commissioner Martin Horn told a group of local pols and community activists at a Jan. 2 meeting that he is considering housing a new middle school in the jail.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) strongly supported the idea, according to people who attended the meeting at Borough Hall.

Yassky’s support for a jailhouse middle school follows his opposition to a plan by DUMBO developer David Walentas to include a middle school in his proposed Dock Street apartment tower because part of that building might block some views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“David’s position has always been that we need a new middle school in the general Downtown area,” said Sam Rockwell, Yassky’s spokesman, adding that the councilman would certainly consider the school-in-a-jail concept.

“It’s bizarre,” said one participant in the meeting. “Retailers don’t want to be in the building, yet Yassky would put our kids there?”

Tale of the tape

Institution House of Detention Schoolhouse
Who’s inside Convicted criminals, whether they like it or not Children, age 11–14, whether they like it or not
Financing Taxpayer dollars Taxpayer dollars
Terms While awaiting court dates While awaiting high school
Who to watch for Warden, guy with shiv Principal, bullies
Favorite lunch Sloppy Joe Sloppy Joe
What you learn on the inside Crime doesn’t pay, who your friends are, and that you should never try to break out on a rainy day using a gun made out of a bar of soap. Reading, writing, how to pop a pimple, and that your parents are right when they call it “the awkward years.”