Tuesday, June 3, 2008

rethink the clink

Laurie Maurer of the CHA attended Thursday's meeting of the Brooklyn House of Detention Community Stakeholders Group and files this report.

On Thursday, May 29, a community meeting was held to discuss the future of the Brooklyn House of Detention (HOD), located on Atlantic Avenue between the Adams Expressway and Smith Street. The meeting was convened by the Stakeholders' Group, which consists of several neighborhood associations (including CHA) as well as adjacent residential associations.

The facility has been closed for five years and the Department of Corrections' current plan for the site is to double the inmate population from the current 750 to 1500. The Stakeholders' Group is adamantly opposed to this proposed expansion. The purpose of the meeting was to bring the community up to date on the project and to discuss alternatives uses for the site as well as alternatives to actual incarceration.

Main speakers included Stanley Richards, COO of the Fortune Society, and Abby Hamlin of Hamlin Ventures. Mr. Richards explained some of the numerous activities of his organization with respect to assisting people who have been released from prison, and which includes court-appointment custodial care of people in lieu of incarceration.

Ms. Hamlin presented her organization's proposal for the site (prepared for the RFEI requested by the City), which included demolition of the present building and constructing an assemblage of mixed use buildings—support services for released prisoners, including job training and counseling; temporary housing with support services for those coming out of prison; affordable and market rate housing units. There were no inmate beds provided in the scheme.

In addition to these speakers, representatives from various elected officials—Millman, Connor, the Comptroller's office, Yassky, de Blasio and the Mayor's office—offered brief comments.

The Stakeholders' Group would like to see a great deal more open discussion with all concerned parties regarding the future of this key site before the enormous amount of public funds are allocated for the project. They would like to see the discussion include issues of public policy and law, in addition to those involving the actual real estate in question.

The group urges all interested residents to get involved with this issue. Their website has more information, including the Hamlin proposal.

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