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School in a jail plan sparks mail — from city

The Brooklyn Paper
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To the editor,

The city Department of Correction takes issue with both your news story and your editorial about possible multiple uses at the site of the expanded Brooklyn House of Detention (“Lock ’em up” and “No to jailhouse school,” Jan. 12).

Neither the city nor the Department proposed a new middle school in the jail, as the news story reported. Nor did they originate the idea, as suggested in the editorial.

To be clear, the Department of Correction has worked aggressively and in good faith to explore multiple uses that would integrate the expanded Brooklyn jail as fully as possible with the neighborhood. We have pursued formal processes such as the solicitation of developer proposals, and we have followed up on any suggestions from the community, as in the case of the school.

On that topic, we merely reported back that a school would fit the property architecturally, but that it is a matter for the Department of Education. The Department is committed to the original objectives for the Brooklyn jail — moving thousands of Brooklyn inmates every year from remote and out-of-date facilities on Rikers Island to a safe, modern, efficient jail located closer to their families, communities, attorneys and the courts in which they appear, while they await trial.

And after two years of working with, and listening to, the community, we are eager to begin the project.

Stephen J. Morello

The writer is a deputy commissioner in the city Department of Correction.

• • •

To the editor,

With the expansion of Brooklyn’s population, there is a need for more public schools. It makes sense to repurpose many Downtown Brooklyn buildings, including the jail.

Mike Worthington, DUMBO

• • •

To the editor,

Oh, yeah, a school in a jail is a smart move. Is this what the city thinks about its children?

The city couldn’t find one empty lot to rebuild?

Djenny Passe-Rodriguez, Freeport, NY

• • •

To the editor,

Because the press was not invited to the critical Borough Hall meeting, your story suggested that our local Councilman David Yassky was to blame for the silliness about putting a public school on the same lot with the jail.

But the culprit in all this was Department of Correction Commissioner Horn. After a much-ballyhooed appeal to developers to add housing to the site, which resulted in nothing, Horn picked out of nowhere the insane idea of slapping a school on the site.

For the first 60 seconds, the idea seemed worth considering. Of course, Horn had never had the “time” or the courtesy to the room full of attendees — including our borough president — to pick up the phone and see if this interested the Department of Education.

Yassky, being an enthusiastic sort, expressed interest and then clammed up — but the damage was done.

Downtown Brooklynites will be relieved to know that there has been a very active resistance to the Corrections Department’s grand intentions of converting a key location into a kind of Disneyworld for processing and incarceration of detainees and prisoners.

Yassky to his credit is on record with all the other electeds as opposing Horn’s oversold ambitions. We thank him and the others for holding the line. It’s OK to reopen the jail, but not to expand the structure or its population.

William Harris, Brooklyn Heights

The writer is a member of Community Board 2

Our article prompts a letter from the DA

To the editor,

Your recent article about lawyer Emani Taylor (“Panel: Guardian stole, but Hynes won’t prosecute,” Jan. 12) made several errors that require clarification.

The assertion in the story that District Attorney Charles Hynes will not open a criminal investigation into the wrongdoings of attorney Emani Taylor is inaccurate and ignores the well-known history of this case. The suspension of Ms. Taylor’s law license was, in large part, the result of a criminal investigation by this office, not cause for an investigation.

While we found no criminality in Ms. Taylor’s actions, investigators from this office determined that Ms. Taylor may well have violated the rules of court guardianship, a matter for the Appellate Division’s Disciplinary Committee. Our office gave the Disciplinary Committee numerous records and documents to support this finding. Based upon those documents, which were part of our investigation, and her lack of cooperation with the Disciplinary Committee, the Committee recommended to the Appellate Division that Ms. Taylor lose her law license.

There has been no subsequent evidence that Ms. Taylor committed any criminal acts. If such evidence arises, this office will investigate.

The article quoted someone who stated that District Attorney Hynes has “never prosecuted anyone” for plundering Judge Phillips’s estate. To the contrary, District Attorney Hynes did in fact, indict, prosecute and convict Maria Reyes Albertina for fraudulently selling a building owned by Judge Phillips.

Ms. Albertina will begin serving three to nine years in state prison after she has paid $2 million in restitution.

Michael F. Vecchione

The writer is chief of the Rackets Division for the Kings County District Attorney

Editor’s note: Vecchione writes that “there has been no subsequent evidence that Ms. Taylor committed any criminal acts,” but Taylor did not challenge the Disciplinary Committee’s assertion that she stole nearly $330,000 from the estate of her ward, former Judge John Phillips — a crime by anyone’s measure.

More on Dock Street

To the editor,

Your article on David Walentas’s latest proposal (“Walentas again fights his neighbors over Dock Street apartment tower,” Dec. 22), omitted important information about Two Trees’ attempt to build an 18-story apartment building next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

• A 16-story building on this site was rejected in 2004 for the same reason an 18-story building is opposed now: a 210-foot high tower and complex only 90 feet away from the world famous Brooklyn Bridge would forever tarnish this national icon.

• The coalition of well-respected, non-profit neighborhood associations that oppose the building would support one of a height below the Brooklyn Bridge roadway, thereby preserving the historical views of and from the Brooklyn Bridge.

• Councilman David Yassky has formed a diverse task force of community representatives to work with the Department of Education to select a site considered appropriate for a school according to public interest criteria, not according to the needs of a single private developer.

The more fundamental, precedent-setting question is whether a private developer should be allowed to offer “sweeteners” to buy himself a rezoning for a bulky 18-story complex — or should the existing open spaces that protect the public’s views from and of revered national icons, like the Statue of Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge, be a protected public trust that is simply not for sale?

This was the community’s and City Council’s mandate in 2004 and it should remain so.

Steven Lewis, DUMBO

Placard problems

To the editor,

I was reading about on the crackdown of city-issued parking placards (“Placard crackdown — can it work?” Jan. 12) and realized that the only way it can work is if the city starts ticketing these employees.

Even the commander of the 84th Precinct can’t order tickets on these vehicles. Parking in Downtown is like the Wild West with no law enforcement.

If you ask a traffic control agent why he does not issue tickets for illegal parking, he will tell you that he can’t. The law does not apply to these city employees!

Unlike the Times, which also covered this story, your paper ran a picture of a city bus stopped in the middle of Jay Street to discharge passengers because of this permit abuse.

Also, I enjoyed your coverage of a city plan to put a middle school in the Brooklyn House of Detention (“Lock ’em, up,” Jan. 12). This is a great idea and a perfect use for a city property.

In fact, it may give some of our youth second thoughts on a criminal career. Nothing like on-the-job training!

Such stories show why your paper is fun and really keeps me up to date.

Al Pankin, Downtown

Memories flow like fuel oil

To the editor,

I ran across The Brooklyn Paper Web site while surfing the Internet and have to tell you how much I loved it.

My family had a fuel oil business called Fred Rose Fuel Oil. My grandparents started with an ice wagon and horse in 1905. They lived on 51st Street and Third Avenue. Comedian Henny Youngman lived down the street and dated my mother several times.

I ushered at old Dyker Theater for a few years. And I frequented Sheridan’s on Fifth Avenue by the old Stanley Theater. They lost a lot of customers when we were drafted in November 1950.

I was happy I found your paper. I enjoy reading about the old neighborhood.

Milton Maxim, former resident of Bay Ridge

The writer is a graduate of Fort Hamilton HS, class of 1947

Flatbush flaws

To the editor,

Your recent predictions for Flatbush Avenue (“80 in ’08,” Jan. 5) prompted this question in my mind: How will the residents of the high-rise buildings along Flatbush Avenue Extension get to work? Will they ride atop the already overcrowded subways?

Will they pay the congestion tax and drive to work or hire car service and sit in traffic?

And where will they send their children to school? Will their children be safe crossing the Flatbush Avenue Extension? And won’t Fresh Direct trucks block traffic on already to congested Flatbush Avenue Extension?

Robert Ohlerking, Park Slope

As Gersh as it gets

To the editor,

Allow me to second Gersh Kuntzman’s award as editor of the year (“Editor of the year,” Jan. 12).

The Brooklyn Paper provides real coverage of local community news stories usually overlooked by other media — especially Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project. In the marketplace of ideas, let us hope there continues to be room The Brooklyn Paper.

I’m grateful that The Paper has on many occasions provided me the opportunity to express my views on various topics along with many others who may have different opinions on the issues of the day.

Thanks to Editor Gersh Kuntzman, an ordinary citizen like myself is afforded the freedom to comment on the actions and legislation of various elected officials and others.

Public officials have many ways to promote their views through mass mailings, press conferences, letters to the editor and guest opinion page columns. And other weekly newspapers are influenced in their coverage by holiday advertisements from public officials frequently paid for by taxpayers.

The Brooklyn Paper, however, has remained independent, willing to take on all comers including powerful developers.

Larry Penner, Great Neck, New York

Hynes’s varieties

To the editor,

Another perp beats the system (“Panel: Guardian stole, but Hynes won’t prosecute,” Jan. 12)! The District Attorney needs to wake up! There have been too many cover-ups!

The fiduciaries are feasting.

Wasn’t the purpose of the guardianship law to protect the person’s assets and prevent him from becoming a public charge?

Lori Duboys, Boston, Mass.

Updated 4:01 pm, November 10, 2010
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