Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New Organization Formed To Oppose Gowanus Parole Facility In Gowanus

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One of my readers forwarded me an email she received from Councilmember Brad Lander yesterday in regards to the NYS Department of Corrections centralized parole facility that is currently being built on 2nd Avenue in Gowanus.
The new three-story 55,000-square-foot facilty is slated to open in 2015.  It will allow about 5,000 parolees to check in with their supervisors. Roughy 300 to 400 daily visits by parolees are anticipated.

In his email to those who signed a petition against the facility, Councilman Brad Lander  points to a new organization called Gowanus United, which is made up of neighbors, business owners, and civic groups, that have vowed to fight the facility.  The organization cites lack of security, increase of traffic and proximity to churches, parks and churches as a reason for its opposition.
It is interesting to note that on the organization's web site, none of these civic group nor businesses identify themselves.

The Councilman's email also refers to a meeting Gowanus United will hold on Thursday, October 23rd at 6:30 PM at AL-Madina School, 383 3rd Avenue ay 5th Street.

As I mentioned previously, it is important to note that this is not a prison, but a place for people who have served their time to check in with their parole officer. It is also important to note that zoning on the site allows such use.
Perhaps, Councilman Brad Lander and the business community's time would be  better spent introducing local job training programs that could provide parolees with real skills and jobs in Gowanus. 

And for all those citing additional traffic in Gowanus as a reason to oppose this facility, where was the outcry when Whole Foods opened its destination store just a block away at Third Street and Third Avenue?  I would bet that the gourmet market attracts a whole lot more cars to the area than this facility ever will.  Just saying.


Anonymous said...

NIMBY in the house.

Anonymous said...

If the Department of Corrections decides not to proceed with this location I imagine the property owner would have a nice lawsuit.

It should also be noted that the Department of Corrections began a PUBLIC search for a new facility three years ago and extended the search period. Our electeds including the NYC attorney general and comptroller approved the contract. The mayor's office and City Planning were also aware of this move and also gave their written approval. This did not happen in a vacuum.

I believe this site was in Gonzalez's council district prior to the new lines taking effect so maybe she was notified. Does anyone know whether CB6 was notified?

No matter where the parole office is located I imagine that there would be a community outcry.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if those on the Carroll Gardens side if the canal are less concerned because it's across the canal. This is a much bigger deal than something like the Rock and Roll Playhouse. As someone who lives close to this site and travels between Gowanus and Carroll Gardens every day, I am concerned about having that many parolees around while so many middle school kids are walking to and from school. The recidivism rate is pretty high (40% ?) and as a parent, it does not make me comfortable letting my daughter walk alone with that many former criminals around. 3rd Avenue is finally booming, I hope that this does not stall all the great gains that have been made in the last few years. Not to mention the fact that this location is not at all convenient to a LARGE portion of the borough.

Anonymous said...

Not having done any background research on this or parole offices in general, is it misguided of me to feel like this type of facility is best suited for a downtown business district environment, like around all the office buildings near or on Flatbush and near all the subway line stops?

NIMBY'ism aside this does not seem to be an optimal solution considering the Gowanus neighbor appears on the brink of generating larger tax revenues in the next decade for the borough. That detention center on Atlantic throws off some bad juju (or is a negative externality unlike public art or parks or a Whole Foods which are positive externalities) for the immediate surrounding blocks and thwarts its potential value for Brooklyn in general not just the near by residents IMHO.

Think about the desirability impact for the hundreds of future Public Place units and the yet to be constructed waterside public park by having a parole office tower directly across the canal from their windows. That park under the subway at Smith and Huntington is/was under-utilized and derelict for a reason and it is not for lack of nearby children. Why not put the parole tower right across from Pier 6 (or put it there ten years ago when the park was yet to be built)?

I would love to hear a response to why the above perspective is wrong and what I am missing here, besides potential for lunch businesses on Third Ave.

Anonymous said...

The parole office is a permitted use and our council member should not be allowed to dictate how a property owner uses their property when that use is as of right.

DOCCS is consolidating their bureaus so anywhere they relocate will probably be inconvenient to much of the borough. Wherever this office opens will be met with opposition.

Anonymous said...

I am an artist who fears rising property values will lead to rising studio & creative space rents. This is the type of use that may tamp down real estate speculation in the neighborhood. I say, bring it on!

Anonymous said...

They are consolidating 4 branches into 1 and just at the one location in downtown Brooklyn, there were two separate incidents in recent years of gunfire either by the parolee or parole officers. There will be many parole officers walking around with guns (peace officers while in public)not to mention the possibility of hundreds of sex offenders wandering so close to schools and playgrounds--the Turf at 4th Ave and 3rd Street is just a few short blocks away where hundreds of youths congregate daily. Transportation in the area is lacking, meaning long walks to the 2 fairly accesible subway lines (at Carroll Street and 4th Avenue)and I doubt an Uber ride is a possibility. Keeping it in downtown BK with convenient transportation makes sense.

Margaret said...

to bring it on, I second that emotion! lots of fear mongering going on, as usual. And Brad Lander should do the right thing. If anything should be reversed, it is the spot rezoning for Lightstone.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon at 6:48! I wonder what the crime rate is right around a parole facilty. I am not a criminal justice expert, but I would suspect that criminals know enough to not commit crimes right as they are coming to, or leaving, their parole center. But I do agree with you that if this thing were being built on the other side of the canal the howls of outrage from this blog would be deafening.

Katia said...

To Anon 11;10,
are you really going to play the "our side vs. you side of the canal" card?
Look, glad that those opposed are organizing and getting the support of our elected officials.
I wish you better luck fighting this than we have had on "our side" fighting residential buildings next to a Superfund site, in a flood zone.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should make the parolees wear scarlet "P's".

I have not heard one viable alternative and time appears to be of the essence for the relocation. DOCCS has a procedure for securing sites and entering into leases. It's not like the can just call up Corcoran.

Maybe DOCCS can find out if the Sunset Park location is still available then it can become Councilmember Menacha's and another community's problem. And maybe 15 2nd Avenue can be used as a methadone clinic or something.

ASPusey said...

I represent the 8th Street Block Association and am a founding member of Gowanus United. I have lived on my block for 16 years and I'm proud to be raising my family here. Gowanus United is a genuine group of neighbors, business owners, and others who are organizing to fight this parole mega-site. Pointing to our website that is under construction as proof that we are not transparent isn't fair (as we just began working on it this week), and diverts from so many of the other issues.

For example, the State’s rules say that this facility should not be near schools or other places where there are children nearby. Yet, Al-Madinah School is literally one Avenue away and there are many public schools, preschools, and afterschool destinations within walking distance.

We are indeed concerned about the volume of traffic that will be generated from the 400 parolees who will visit the site daily, plus the staff (security officers, parole officers, etc.). We’re demanding that the State provide the studies they relied upon to site this facility in a neighborhood that is poorly served by mass transit and already struggling with traffic congestion.

On that note, I should mention a key difference between Whole Foods and the parole facility: Whole Foods has a parking lot, the parole facility does not. The zoning on the parole facility site requires a certain number of parking spaces in connection with this use, but the city granted the state a “zoning override” in the final days of the Bloomberg Administration that allowed the state to avoid the parking requirement. Of the hundreds of people that will be arriving at this site daily, it’s reasonable to say that a large number of them will be commuting by car, placing further demands on our neighborhood’s already limited street parking.

Gowanus United supports ex-offender re-entry, including job training and placement programs for parolees. However, we also agree with Brooklyn BP Eric Adams that siting this facility in Gowanus—a neighborhood that is not easily accessible via mass transit—will make it more difficult for parolees to check in with their parole officers, and unfortunately more likely to violate the conditions of their parole.

This space is just too limited to debate all of the issues. But Gowanus United, with our limited resources, will be trying to spread the word loudly over the next few weeks. We welcome dialogue and totally embrace transparency – something the State hasn’t done in this case!

Katia said...

Thanks of the additional info. As I mentioned above, I am glad that you are organizing and holding meetings since this issue obviously concerns many in Gowanus.
Please keep us updated on any new development.

Anonymous said...

"New Organization Formed To Oppose..." would be a good name for any South Brooklyn blog.

Katia said...


Anonymous said...

To echo 11:10, how many parolees do we truly think will commit crimes on their way to and from this center? It is only a couple blocks from the F/G and buses right?
These people have served their time, and while some go on to commit more crimes many do not. It's irresponsible to assume every one of these people is bad. Past the layer of judgement exists an individual who is trying just like me and you.
Look, I live 4 blocks away so this is not some random commenter trying to kick up dust.
Truth is Lander is miffed about this because it complicates his visions of development for the Gowanus area.
The true travesty in this neighborhood is the Lightstone development. Completely out of scale. Not to mention the toxicity of the land and water. But our voices weren't heard so instead many of us are looking to point our guns in other directions.
We can better spend our time with the oversized developments that haven't yet been greased through yet.

Anonymous said...

Based on the response from the Dept. of Corrections to some of CB6's long list of questions, it is *not* in fact a rule that parole offices not be near schools or other places where children gather.

Anonymous said...

This was a poorly designed plan - largely done behind closed doors in Albany without ANY local community input or NYPD involvement and rubber stamped by the outgoing Bloomberg administration. There is ZERO parking for officers, parolees or visitors. There is no sidewalk. It is 2 miles form the courts and public defender's offices.

It will however allow existing DOCCS centers in downtown Brooklyn - currently owned by NY City AND State - to be sold off and converted into hi-end residential housing. The idea that a single centralized parole check-in facility can save NYS money is an absolute false economic plan. California, the state with the most centralized parolee system has the country's highest stats of re-arrest and recidivism. Oregon, with the its decentralized offices, the lowest.

In the long term, all of Brooklyn will end up paying for this unfortunate half-baked plan by the DOCCS - costs to the public in terms of crime involving property and personal safety, higher cost to the NYPD, higher costs to the state to re-incarcerate parolees, and a return to revolving door justice to ex-inmates and their families who might have otherwise returned to society. This should have been thoroughly thought out and brought before the public before any lease was signed and cement poured.

Anonymous said...

First - there is only 1 parole office in downtown Brooklyn, there were 3 but due to the hot real estate market- landlords do not want a state agency. Each borough only has 1 large sized parole officer- ny state does not own it's current parole office it pays rent to a owner. If you visit the office on Livingston street - you would not even be able to identify it. It is a regular building with a regular amount of traffic.
Stop posting comments that are totally false. Parolees do not commit crimes near the parole office because the officers are right there. These officers know the parolees and have the powers to stop, question and even detain them if they violate the conditions of their parole.
Most violators are for drug use, curfew and failing to attend programs. Do parolees commit crimes - yes - just like any other person. Many have spent enough time in state custody that they never want to return.
Parolees work in construction, transportation, parks, food services, and 100's of other jobs. There are a little more than 5000 parolees in Brooklyn- many of you come into contact with parolees and never even know it.
Go to the doccs website it shows exactly how many paroles are in brooklyn - updated the first week of every month.
Parolees do not report every week - it depends on their assigned level - some report every 60 or 90 days. The daily visitors will be right around 300