Looks like condos and jails may not mix well after all. The city’s quest to reopen an expanded Brooklyn House of Detention, sandwiching the facility between offices and condos, is not working out as well as the Bloomberg administration had hoped.
The city did not receive any satisfactory responses to its request for preliminary bids to double in size the now-closed 275 Atlantic Avenue jail in downtown Brooklyn, according to a spokesman for the Department of Corrections. The city had hoped developers would be willing to put condominiums and office space at the edges of the jail, masking its presence.
“Whatever came back to the Economic Development Corporation responses did not meet either the specs or the objectives of whatever we and EDC had hoped for,” Corrections spokesman Stephen Morello told The Observer.
The plan to reopen the jail—which, to no one’s surprise, has received criticism from the neighborhood—is part of the Bloomberg administration’s effort to open jail facilities in the community, holding fewer inmates on the relatively isolated Rikers Island. The strategy cuts down on inmate bussing costs and keeps prisoners closer to support services, the city reasons, while relieving aging facilities at Rikers.
The jail closed in 2003 as the Bloomberg administration sought to concentrate inmates in an effort to cut costs. When the city later said it wanted to reopen a larger jail in Brooklyn, there was hope on the part of many, including the borough’s president, Marty Markowitz, that the city could sell the site of the closed jail, cashing in on the booming downtown Brooklyn real estate market, and open up a larger jail elsewhere with the proceeds. However, it became apparent that Brooklyn real estate was no match for the high cost of a new jail, and thus officials settled on the current plan.
Now, with developers apparently not swooning to build condos that share a wall with a jail, the Department of Corrections seems unsure of its next step, at least publicly.
“Where we are exactly is a little hard to say,” Mr. Morello said. “The department is still eager and committed to expanding jail space in the communities where our inmates live and come from, and expanding at this site.”
Downtown Brooklyn is not the only place where the city is running into trouble installing a jail. Amid legal complications with its current site, the Department of Corrections is now looking for new sites on which to build a jail that was originally slated for a former garbage dump in the South Bronx, Mr. Morello confirmed.