Brooklyn House of Detention Closed

Brooklyn House of Detention days before closing, December 2019. Photo: NYC Urbanism.

Brooklyn House of Detention days before closing, December 2019. Photo: NYC Urbanism.

The House of Detention in Brooklyn has officially closed, awaiting demolition. Detainees (all innocent and awaiting trial) have been moved to other facilities around the city including the Tombs (Manhattan Detention Complex) and the Vernon Bain Center in the Bronx in anticipation of the Borough-Based Jail System that will replace the notorious Rikers Island complex. Brooklyn's "Central Booking" was one of the first facilities to close due to the lack of air conditioning and heating among other problems the dated high-rise has faced over the years since reopening in 2012. Located on Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn the House of Detention opened in 1956 adjacent to the Kings County Criminal Court.

In August 2018, the city released a proposal for a Borough-Based Jail System, to develop local jails in four boroughs that will eventually replace Rikers Island. The motive behind the proposal is sensible – calling for smaller local jails with more oversight and transparency that will allow detainees and their families to be closer to the courthouses and their neighborhoods. The city’s criminal justice system is in need of reform and Rikers, “a jail complex synonymous with brutality, incompetence, corruption, and neglect” must be closed.

The new Brooklyn complex includes streetscape improvements, retail, a community facility, reduced street parking, and moving the street-level jail entrances behind the building and closer to the courthouse on State Street. The local community organization, The Cobble Hill Association has called for moving mental health and addiction treatment – which take up 40-50% of jail beds –  to hospitals or other centralized facilities that can better meet the detainees' needs. Removal of these beds would dramatically reduce the height and density of the new jail, which is larger than the current tower that is already out of scale with the adjacent brownstone neighborhoods. The Borough-Based plan also leaves out Staten Island, a borough that accounts for 217 beds.

Rendering of possible streetscape and retail improvements along the the new jail on Atlantic Ave.

To read more about the creation and construction of the 1956 House of Detention visit Correction History’s excellent write up.

Josh VogelComment