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A city plan to reopen and expand the Brooklyn House of Detention is on hold until a judge can rule on a lawsuit brought by opponents of the contentious prison project.
State Supreme Court Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix on Tuesday heard arguments in a case against the plan brought by civic groups and Comptroller Bill Thompson and Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), who argue that any expansion of the prison must go through an environmental review.
Hinds-Radix’s final decision on the merits in the case is expected in February.
In the meantime, the Department of Correction has agreed to refrain from moving prisoners into the Atlantic Avenue slammer.
The city closed the big house between Smith Street and
Boerum Place five years ago, but had announced its intention to reopen and double the capacity of the 11-story facility in a $440-million project by building a new tower to detain about 1,500 souls who have been found guilty or are awaiting trials.
Neighborhood groups denounced the notion of a jail on what is now a vibrant commercial corridor and were caught off-guard by the Department of Correction’s surprise move to relocate about 35 cons into the House of D in November. The opponents sued the next day.
Borough President Markowitz walked a fine line between supporting and condemning the mayor’s controversial proposal, which officials say stems from a new policy to have inmates near the courts and families instead of the remote Rikers Island complex.
The beep condoned reopening the jail at its current size of 759 beds because “each borough should do its fair share when it comes to many services required for city life, and it is thus our obligation to deal with those who are awaiting trial, a good number of whom are from Brooklyn and whose families have a right to see them,” he said in a nuanced statement that may draw the ire of constituents in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill.
But he rejected expanding the jail.
“I believe that a larger facility would be a burden to neighborhood residents, and would not be an asset to the area’s evolution as a modern gateway into Downtown Brooklyn,” the statement added.
UPDATED ON JAN. 7 AT 3:37 PM: Story was altered to correct an error in an earlier version that suggested that Justice Hinds-Radix had issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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