Long-time residents of Boerum Hill have always known that the House of Detention would re-open one day, and now that day is imminent. To be sure, it will be a challenge to integrate our returning neighbor into a more densely residential environment.
Let me make it clear that the House of Detention is only one part of the downtown puzzle. With the courthouse and many state and city offices nearby, the first issue will be the multitude of parking placards. In the past, it was not unusual to see cars with placards blocking bus stops and intersections, giving little heed to pedestrian access. I want to point out that the Department of Correction was typically not among the bad actors; however, any rise in the number of parking placards may bring the return of this chaos.
The Department of Correction has notified its staff that parking is very limited, and encouraged workers to use mass transit. The 84th Precinct and Borough Hall have been forceful in policing this situation while the jail was closed. There are only a few locations where illegal parking takes place — the sidewalk behind the jail seems to be a favorite for court officers.
The Department of Correction Commissioner and the House of Detention Warden have pledged to be “good neighbors” by maintaining a safe environment both inside and outside the facility. They were forthcoming about operational issues including visitor’s hours, staffing numbers and building access procedures.
In response to neighbors’ concerns about contraband, drugs or weapons hidden on local properties, an officer will patrol the block around the jail during visiting hours. They will also assign a Community Affairs representative who can respond to any community issue.
Hopefully the Department of Correction can reach out to the courts, the 84th Precinct, and state and city agencies, to sensitize other departments to the issues of the nearby residents.
To be a good neighbor is to have a dialogue when needed; The Boerum Hill Association will work with the Department of Corrections to realize that goal.
Howard Kolins is the president of the Boerum Hill Association.