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City: Make big house bigger

The Brooklyn Paper
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City Corrections officials are inviting developers to pitch plans for the (big) house of their dreams.

As reported last year in The Brooklyn Paper, the Brooklyn House of Detention will eventually reopen and double in size — and last week the city announced that it would soon be taking bids on the job.

The so-called Request for Expressions of Interest will ask builders to estimate the cost of adding hundreds of new cells within the existing 759-bed House of D — and adding shops on the ground floor of the building, which stands at the rapidly gentrifying intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Smith Street.

The jail has been closed since 2003.

Developers will be expected to build on top of the existing 11-story structure as well as on a city-owned parking lot next door, according to documents obtained by The Brooklyn Paper.

An underground parking lot will also be included in the 353,381-square-foot expansion, said Stephen Morello, a spokesman for the city Department of Correction.

The notion of having ground-floor retail at the base of the jail was a concession to local residents and Borough President Markowitz after it became clear that the city would reopen the jail despite widespread opposition.

The 112,000-square-foot retail base could easily house a grocery store, according to Rob Perris, district manager of Community Board 2. Markowitz has said that he would like to see a Trader Joe’s supermarket in the space.

“It is my view that we can fix the problems associated with this site, turning this situation into an opportunity to create new benefits for the local community,” the Beep said.

CB2 officially opposed the expansion at a board meeting on Wednesday.

“The jail was not a good neighbor,” the board’s chairwoman, Shirley McRae, wrote to the city. “The behavior of some visitors to the jail, including public urination and the hiding of weapons and other contraband on private property was a burden on the [nearby] residential neighborho­od.”

The expansion of the House of D — an ugly tower celebrated in the works of countless rappers and novelist Jonathan Lethem — is part of a larger plan to modernize the city’s prison system by replacing old cells on Rikers Island with new beds closer to the communities in which inmates live. A new jail will also be built in the Bronx.

“By increasing capacity, we cut the costs by half and improve inmates’ access to the courts, their communities, families and legal representa­tion,” said Morello, the Correction spokesman.

DUMBO developer Jed Walentas told The Brooklyn Paper last year that he would consider building on the jail site — if he was given adjacent land to build a residential tower on the same foundation.

Correction officials expect the project to take five years, with the expanded jail reopening in 2013.

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