View Full Version : Brooklyn House of Detention Conversion

February 12th, 2005, 10:43 PM
February 13, 2005


In Case a Jail Closes: Pursuing Ideas for a Gentler Future


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/t.gifhrough the eyes of a developer, the building at 275 Atlantic Avenue has a lot going for it. It is 11 stories tall and centrally located. And if you strip away the tall wire fences and the cages that cover the windows, it's not a bad piece of modern architecture, either.

The building is the Brooklyn House of Detention, which has been closed since mid-2003. The New York City Department of Correction, which owns the property, reserves the right to reopen it if necessary, but some local officials are pushing to have it sold off and transformed into something new. The question is, what?

"How can you take this existing structure that was in fact designed as a prison, and turn it into something else?" mused Frederick Biehle, an architecture professor at the Pratt Institute whose class of fourth-year students is studying the question this semester. "Can that be a boutique hotel? I don't know."

The jail sits at the intersection of the Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill neighborhoods, between the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park and Bruce Ratner's proposed arena. Marty Markowitz, borough president, thinks its redevelopment would unify the area. He said last week that the city should issue a request for proposals, to "see what ideas are out there."

"Affordable housing has to be a component," he said. "There's no question retail would be a part as well. Who knows, maybe Trader Joe's will come to Brooklyn." Audrey Dumper, a vice president of marketing for Trader Joe's, said the company would like to be in Brooklyn but has nothing in the works.

Mr. Biehle's students have toured the site and listened to community suggestions. Mr. Biehle is encouraging them to consider a mix of uses, and he said possibilities include a performance venue or a middle school.

"One person even suggested that we put back a prison," he said.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

February 12th, 2005, 11:03 PM
Good. I thought a couple of years ago how will redevelopment ever take place with a jail right in the thick of it, although the scourge is not the case, it still is a scourge and will instead complete the redevelopment. It’s the final piece and I think it has a piece in Brooklyn history. If it were up to me, I would take out the bars but I would keep the cells and turn it into a micro hotel like you see in Japan. It sounds crazy, but it’s unique, and it would have immense appeal on account of its use and location.

February 12th, 2005, 11:54 PM
What exactly is a micro hotel?

Also, i heard some talks of it being demolished and a new building is would rise....but im not too sure about that

February 13th, 2005, 03:32 AM
Not really an eyesore, just useless...

May 11th, 2007, 03:57 PM
The New York Times
May 11, 2007

City Tests Idea of Building Apartments by Brooklyn Jail


By PATRICK McGEEHAN (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/patrick_mcgeehan/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

City officials have devised what may be the ultimate test of demand for housing in New York: They are asking developers if they want to build apartments pressed up on the side of the Brooklyn (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/classifieds/realestate/locations/newyork/newyorkcity/brooklyn/?inline=nyt-geo) House of Detention.

For more than a year, officials at the Department of Correction have been considering whether to add stores and restaurants to the street level of the jail, which they plan to expand and reopen. But now they are floating the idea of a bigger redevelopment that could include residential and commercial buildings sandwiching the enlarged jail.

Diagrams in city documents suggest that one or two buildings, each 10 to 15 stories tall, could abut the jail, which closed in 2003. City officials will decide whether those buildings would contain apartments, hotel rooms or offices after fielding responses from developers over the next 10 weeks.

“There’s no preference for residential, but we certainly wanted to test the market to see what the developers thought,” said Jennifer K. Friedman, a vice president in the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is soliciting the responses.

But Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, said he believed people were so hungry for living space in Downtown Brooklyn that they would be willing to rent or buy homes right next to the jail.

“We’re hot as a pistol right now,” he said.

Mr. Markowitz cited the rash of condominium construction nearby as evidence that the detention center has not deterred development. If the Correction Department is going to reopen the jail, local residents would prefer that it be as obscure as possible, he said.

“If we built bookend buildings, we could almost mask the House of Detention,” Mr. Markowitz said.

Turning the jail, which opened in 1956, into a mixed-use complex would fill a gap that “still destroys the tapestry of Atlantic Avenue and really separates it from east to west,” Mr. Markowitz said.

The jail sits in the middle of a block bounded by Atlantic Avenue, State and Smith Streets and Boerum Place. The Correction Department plans to nearly double the jail’s capacity of 760 beds by adding an adjoining structure on State Street that would serve as its new entrance.

The city is seeking a developer interested in supervising the expansion and renovation of the jail and in owning the retail space on the street level of the complex, as well as the new residential or commercial buildings.

Robert Maruca, a deputy correction commissioner, said he understood that there might be trepidation about having inmates on the other side of one’s bedroom wall.

“We had to get comfortable with it from a security perspective,” Mr. Maruca said. “We’re confident that we can design in the right type of separation and orient the nonjail buildings away from the jails.”

Indeed, the city’s solicitation specifies that the apartment dwellers, who may have to pay thousands of dollars a month to live within a few feet of occupied cells, would not have a front-row look at life behind bars.

The redesigned detention center “will ensure that inmates and city personnel should not be able to view into the new residential and/or commercial developments nor should the occupants of the development parcels be able to view into the jail,” it states.

For prospective renters or buyers, good value will trump fear in the end, said Highlyann Krasnow, executive vice president at the Developers Group, a real estate brokerage firm.

“Depending on the purchase price, people would consider it because the location is fantastic,” Ms. Krasnow said. “There’s condos selling a block away, half a block away for well over $1 million, even $2 million.”

She added that the looming presence of more than 1,400 inmates would not be as much of a concern to neighborhood residents as the potential impact on traffic and parking. “Welcome to New York,” she said. “We don’t care about jails. We just care about parking.”

Copyright 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)


May 12th, 2007, 06:10 PM
Well, I appreciate that they are actually being attentive to the emerging community and the prospects for further development. The more they can hide that monstrosity the better it will be for Brooklyn.

May 14th, 2007, 03:13 PM
That area has NEVER had any problems with that jail.....NEVER!

May 14th, 2007, 10:03 PM
The jail also never had any neighbors before and the area hadn't seen a real infllux of development cash. It might not have ever had a problem when it was open, but it is now located in a VERY diferent neighborhood. There are prime development parcels all around it. The city needs to decide exactly what it's plan is - do they want development or to backslide? By wrapping that building in new development it becomes part of the new Brooklyn. Opening it as is just harkens back to Downtown Brooklyn's bleak past.

May 15th, 2007, 02:14 AM
If I was a bail bond person, or a sleazy defense attorney, I'd sure like to be located at the base of this building. I'd imagine businesses like this would outbid the French cafes that I think some delusional folks think are coming to the base of this structure.
The apartments surrounding the jail will probably end up as "affordable housing" - and would likely attract relatives of people in the jail who may or may not be wholesome themselves.

I think they should demolish these buildings and put the jail on Rikers - then sell the land to a market developer and use it to ensure inmates get adequate access to legal assistance and jail safety.

May 15th, 2007, 08:20 AM
Perhaps (and I share your wish), but the Mayor has made it clear the jail is staying. Therefore, the question becomes: how do we integrate it with the neighborhood.