City says ‘go’ directly to jail

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The city brushed aside widespread opposition to its plan to reopen and double the size of the controversial Brooklyn House of Detention by hiring architects to begin the conversion.

The return of an 11-story jail on gentrifying Atlantic Avenue — across the street from a new boutique hotel, new homes and a booming Smith Street — moved ahead last Thursday when the Department of Design and Construction inked a $32.5-million deal to hire Manhattan architecture firm Ricci Greene Associates to transform the prison into a 1,469-inmate facility with ground-floor shopping.

Foes said they would fight the project — in the public review process (if there is one) and in court (if there is not).

“If the city proceeds without going through a full environmental review or ULURP [the uniform land-use review procedure that is required for all new or altered use of of a property], it will face lawsuits,” said attorney Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor who is representing residents and merchants.

A time-consuming public review or lawsuit could entangle the lame-duck administration until a new mayor takes the helm in 2010, which might kill the jail expansion plan.

“Only the current administration supports this project,” said Mastro. “So many others have come out four-square against it.”

The run-out-the-clock strategy might fall flat because the Department of Correction could possibly reopen the jail before finishing the $440-million expansion.

“It’s unclear if we would reopen the Brooklyn Detention Center before the renovation is complete,” said Stephen Morello, a deputy commissioner at the agency.

The city is pushing to reopen the jail, which closed in 2003, on the grounds that it is more efficient to have prisoners in Downtown Brooklyn — near the courts and their lawyers — and it is better public policy to make it easier for families to visit the incarcerated, who currently await trial on remote Rikers Island.

That argument rings hollow to elected officials representing residents and businesses near jail, which is between Smith Street and Boerum Place.

“If the Department of Correction is concerned with community sentiment and building a good relationship with the community, they’re not showing it by flagrantly moving forward with this project,” said Jake Maguire, a spokesman for Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights).

Updated 5:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim Vogel from Park Slope says:
Check out the HOD Community Stakeholders website for full background information on this. ( There's no news here, just the Mayor throwing away money on the HOD again. The contract with the architect specifies that they have 18 months to work on it, which means that no construction would start until (barring term limit extensions) Bloomberg is out of office. And ALL the mayoral candidates (with the exception of Marty, and I mean, c'mon, really...) have said they oppose the reopening. Comptroller Thompson, a credible mayoral candidate, has repeatedly called for selling the site. When they closed it years ago it was to better serve the detainees and save money be centralizing services on Rikers: now it's a different tune with the same orchestra--money, money, money.

Never gonna happen.
Sept. 30, 2008, 12:15 am
John Lane from Boerum Hill says:
Let's hope you are right Jim. The thought of spending this kind of money on this jail (440 mill which would balloon to three times that probably), which has already been a money pit, in these economic times is absurd. The public outcry this would create in the next few years, even from those people who believe that the jail should stay in this now residential community, would be deafening.
Sept. 30, 2008, 3:51 pm
E-Man>Master of the UNIVERSE! from Till&adam says:
Oct. 1, 2008, 7:34 pm

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