News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
September 29, 2016
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News + Views

Atlantic Ave. Jail Reopens

By Lisa M. Collins

Lovely Boerum Hill just grew by 800 people

Boerum Hill is an interesting place—it’s now the 10th most expensive neighborhood in New York City, thanks to an influx over the past decade of brownstone dwellers paying an average of $800,000 per purchase to live among the tree lined streets. And yet it remains an interesting mix—residents around Warren and Hoyt streets complain perennially about shots fired and rowdy teens.

And now Boerum Hill is getting some new residents who’ll be wearing a different stripe: inmates.

Yes that’s right, after years of rallying against it from the community the Detention Center on Atlantic Avenue at Boerum Place is reopening. It’s been closed for eight years.

Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association, says it’s expected that inmates will begin to arrive in February to fill the 750 beds in the facility, a holding-tank of sorts for the accused from Brooklyn and Staten Island while they await trial in downtown courthouses.

The jail closed in 2003 for renovations, and around 2006, as you may recall, in the heat of the luxury building frenzy, the city proposed to expand the detention center, double the number of beds, and to add a commercial and residential condo tower around it. The community freaked out and a group of residents filed a lawsuit.

The lawsuit was successful in preventing the expansion of the jail, and in a settlement, the Department of Corrections agreed to form a Community Advisory Council and to work with it on matters concerning the facility, Kolins said.

Residents, of course, are concerned about parking by jail staff, and the potential impacts the jail will bring to the now very residential neighborhood.

“People remember the increase in prisoners, and the visitors. The people who lived close by didn’t like seeing shackled individuals being escorted down a residential street, and having police vehicles parked on every block,” Kolins said. “It’ll be a busy facility that leads to more downtown congestion.”

He said the Dept. of Corrections promised to be a good neighbor.

Meanwhile an idea floated by the community to put retail on the bottom floor of the jail seems stalled, though Councilman Steve Levin supports the plan.

“It’s a way to minimize the impact, a way to get rid of distaste for it, by adding something people can use,” said Levin’s aid, Ben Petok.

Call me crazy but there’s something kind of strange about the idea of shopping underneath a jail. But I suppose in NYC, anything’s possible…

And finally one last note on this—apparently, according to Kolins, Mayor Bloomberg’s environmental goals for the city played into the re-opening of the Boerum Hill jail, as it would save a good deal of gas that has been spent shuttling the accused back and forth to Riker’s Island during court hearings and trials.

Why am I imagining an effort to get healthy foods and a salad bar into the detention center’s cafeteria next? Certainly, someone is up for it…

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