City halts House of D reopening!

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city has halted its controversial plan to reopen and expand the Brooklyn House of Detention, saying it wants to work out a deal with neighborhood opponents who want the Atlantic Avenue jail dismantled.

The temporary stop sign reduces tensions in what has been a tumultuous week in Downtown Brooklyn. Last Sunday, the Department of Correction began holding inmates in the jail overnight for the first time in five years — a move that outraged neighbors and elected officials who have been battling the city over $440-million plans to double the capacity of the House of D.

The next morning, a collation of critics, led by City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), sued the city to block the jail expansion project, because the Bloomberg Administration has not submitted it to a public review.

Thursday’s accord does not settle the lawsuit, but maintains the status quo while the two sides try to hammer out a long-term agreement. The Department of Correction will not transfer any more prisoners to the jail and the city will delay finalizing a $32.5-million contract with an architect to design the renovated House of D that would hold about 1,500 prisoners.

The Daily News reported this week that the temporary halt in the House of Detention expansion was due to city budget pressures — but the Department of Correction has said all along that the jail expansion would save money in the long term.

All parties will be back in state Supreme Court on Dec. 18.

“This is a major step forward in addressing the community’s concerns and I am pleased that the administration has agreed to refrain from proceeding with this ill-advised project and not house any more additional inmates at the jail,” Thompson said in a statement.

The ultimate prize for Thompson and the other plaintiffs would be to demolish the jail, but another hope is to force the Bloomberg Administration to submit the expansion plan to a battery of public review tests — tests that the opponents predict will reject the House of D project.

The city, citing the ongoing status of the negotiations, only confirmed that it would try to reach an amicable decision.

Updated 5:19 pm, November 26, 2008
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