Brooklyn Parole Headquarters Siting and Our Concerns

Brooklyn Parole Headquarters Siting and Our Concerns

Recently the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) announced their decision to relocate their Brooklyn Borough Parole Office from Downtown Brooklyn to 2nd Avenue in Gowanus. Many constituents have written or called my office to express concerns about this siting – and I agree that the lack of transparency and community engagement in the planning for a facility of this scale has been deeply distressing.

I have long been a supporter of ex-offender reentry and community-based justice programs (I started one when I ran the Fifth Avenue Committee), and I know the importance of meeting the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals returning to the community. However, the planning process for this facility has fallen far short of what any community deserves from their government.  Despite multiple requests and several promises, not one single written word about the facility has been provided by DOCCS to the community.

DOCCS has failed to articulate a coherent rationale for choosing to site a borough-wide facility (there could be as many as 100,000 visits each year) in an area that is inconvenient to transit – not accessible by most of Brooklyn’s subway lines, and a long walk from the train. If there must be one large location, then it should accessible to transit and located in a commercial district. If the goal is to provide community-based locations – a model I support – then there should be several around Brooklyn, convenient to residents from many neighborhoods, in areas with services. Perhaps the Gowanus location could be one such facility; but it cannot be claimed as part of a “neighborhood” strategy if it is serving the entire borough.

DOCCS also seemed unaware of the basic facts about our community. While they claimed to like the “isolated” nature of the site, they did not acknowledge that parolees will walk down quiet residential blocks (with little foot-traffic or eyes-on-the-street) and past schools. They were not aware that in some places 2nd Avenue even lacks sidewalks.

That is why I have been working with area residents, and with our State and Borough-wide representatives to request that DOCCS to reconsider siting a single borough-wide reporting office at this location. Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblymember Joan Millman, Democratic nominee for the State Assembly Joanne Simon, and I have written this letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to direct DOCCS to suspend its opening until there is genuine community engagement and planning. We have also developed this petition which I hope you will consider signing.

My colleagues and I would be willing to work with DOCCS to develop a plan for multiple parole facilities around Brooklyn, for which this could be one location. However, we cannot support the current plan to site the sole, borough-wide parole facility at a site far from transit, in an area near homes and schools but with little commercial foot-traffic, through a process with no transparency, information, or meaningful engagement to address reasonable community concerns.

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