A jail is a repellent sight. It penetrates our belief system, and puts a brick face on human delinquency — something few law-abiding citizens want to, or should have to, confront in their daily lives.
When talk erupts about the possibility of new prisoners souring a neighborhood with their offensive presence, it only stands to reason that the community would rise to arms — right?
That answer would be in the negative if the jail was already in place for half a century — near the courts where it belongs — and the ones howling the Not In My Back Yard blues were the newer dwellers of the area.
If anyone should be voicing NIMBY, it should be the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC), which found itself under an odd restraining order last week for wanting to re-activate and expand the Brooklyn House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue, between Smith Street and Boerum Place, because of over-crowding at Rikers Island.
The single-cell holding pen was built in 1957, and temporarily closed by the city in 2003 because of a decline in local crime, but always with the intention to someday re-open it, asserts Corrections. Now, that prospect of revival, boosted by a $430 million municipal expansion plan, is being digested like a cannon ball by the gilded cronies living in the once dormant area, and its affluent adjacent communities, in downtown Brooklyn.
Last week’s lawsuit, filed by City Comptroller William Thompson, Councilman David Yassky and several downtown grassroots groups may, for now, have halted the city’s plans to fix up the 749-unit facility amid a fiscal crisis, but after due process, and as its landlord, DOC should have the final word. The uproar is not justified, nor is a transplant of the prison’s operations to who-cares-where-as-long-as-it’s-not-here.
The Brooklyn House of Detention is where it belongs, and has belonged for the past 51 years — near the courts, which decide the fates of its detainees. Nobody should have a problem with that except for people who moved, without doing their research, into a gentrified area with an existing pokey. Nor does it come as any surprise that the area’s limousine liberals — usually quite reliable for supporting the underdog, elsewhere — are showing their true colors now that a gloomy reality has hit home.
Whatever the outcome of the settlement talks scheduled for December 8, aggrieved down-towners, who don’t want their lap of luxury pockmarked by the cellulite of crime, should either relocate, themselves, or be more mindful of pre-existing rights in a neighborhood where the local prison system has long-standing roots, plus a viable venue to continue incarcerating wrong-doers.
E-mail“A Britisher’s View” at BritView@c
©2008 Community News Group
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