Slammer time! City will reopen House of D next month

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

Boerum Hill residents fear their lawns and planters will once again become stash spots for drugs, knives and other jail contraband when the Brooklyn House of Detention reopens next month.

Locals worry that jail visitors will use their stoops to store illicit goods while they catch up with detainees at the 759-bed Atlantic Avenue facility, which has been closed for nearly a decade.

“I’ll definitely tell my kids to avoid Atlantic Avenue,” said Tad Hills, who claims he had a bad experience on the street when jailbirds yelled at his children a few years ago. “Especially when I’ve found what looked like a baggie of heroin in my planter before.”

Corrections officials shuttered the House of D in 2003 due to budget cuts, but always planned to reopen the facility to ease the strain on Rikers Island. In the years since, the authorities used the jail to temporarily house prisoners during the day and to shuttle them through tunnels connected to criminal courts.

In February, the resurrected pen near Smith Street will begin housing pre-trial detainees from Brooklyn and Staten Island, and inmates serving sentences of a year or less.

Neighbors aren’t looking forward to it — especially those who recall when their block housed a cellblock.

“We all remember prisoners in shackles being paraded down residential streets,” said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association. “This is something that families don’t want to confront.”

But this time, locals claim they won’t let the lockup’s operations tarnish their streets. Working with the jail, they’ve even created an advisory council.

“Everyone in the neighborhood knew this day was coming,” said Kolins, one of the council’s six members. “We plan to keep the police and the Department of Corrections on their toes.”

The council, however, can only make “nonbinding recommendations” concerning jail operations.

Boerum Hill has gone increasingly upscale since the detention center shut down, with condos and the boutique Nu Hotel rising around the corner — though there is a bail bondsman next door.

Sandy Balboza, president of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, said she was more worried about House of D workers taking up parking spaces used by Atlantic Avenue merchants, with as many as 100 jail employees working during peak shifts.

Before the jail closed, corrections officers would routinely park on the sidewalk and block fire hydrants and handicapped spots, Balboza claims.

“The Department of Corrections is in the Boerum Hill community and the community needs to be respected,” said Balboza, who claims corrections officers routinely parked on the sidewalk and blocked fire hydrants and handicapped spots before the jail closed. “We’re going to make sure that we have a dialogue on these issues.”

Corrections spokeswoman Sharman Stein said the jail will try to be the kind of neighbor all Brooklynites wish they had.

“The facility is here, we have need for it, and we’re going to be the best neighbors we can be,” she said.

Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.