Gowanus community prepares to fight proposed parole site

November 5, 2014 By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Former mayor Michael Bloomberg. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool, file
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A group of concerned Brooklynites have filed suit against New York state to halt the construction of a proposed location for a large parole facility in the Gowanus neighborhood.

The suit, filed by United Gowanus — an organization created for the purpose of thwarting the efforts of the state with regard to the parole building — cites a number of concerns, including the environmental constraints of the neighborhood, the adverse impact on the community and a controversial zoning policy granted by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

According to the concerned organization, the NYS Office of General Services (OGS) and NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) failed to perform the necessary environmental review or take into consideration the community at large.

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The facility is expected to take up 61,000 square feet located at 15 Second Ave. near Whole Foods, which sits directly behind the facility site. The parole center, the suit notes, is expected to serve “all of Brooklyn’s 6,000-plus parolees at a rate of up to 526 per weekday,” posing concerns for the families, businesses and children in the neighborhood.

“[It] is to be located within one-fourth mile of many child-related uses … including schools, pre-and after-schools, playgrounds and parks,” the organization stated.  Worries of traffic congestion also played a part in the decision to file the civil claim. “The parole center … is likely to exacerbate traffic congestion in the Gowanus area and result in a significant increased demand for parking, negatively impacting residents as well as the small businesses located within this [zone],” noted United Gowanus.

Understanding the need for a parole site, the organization suggests that a different location, preferably Downtown Brooklyn, would be better suited for the needs of the parolees as well as the facility’s staff members.

“Downtown Brooklyn [is] a primarily commercial district with an abundance of mass transit hubs,” the organization identified, and also houses Brooklyn’s current parole offices.

“We now know that DOCCS and OGS did nothing to seek community input for over one year after the lease was entered into for this site,” said the organization’s attorney Steven Russo of the firm Greenberg Traurig.  “It is clear that this conduct was an intentional attempt to fly under the radar and slip the siting of this huge facility past the community.” A sentiment felt by many community members.

“We object to the overwhelming scale of this mega-site. While we have welcomed our share of social services here in Gowanus, and we recognize and support the importance of ex-offender reentry, we are left wondering — why the secrecy, and why the rush to force the site here with no community input?” questioned Adine Pusey, vice president of the 8th Street Block Association in Gowanus.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has echoed the efforts of United Gowanus.

I support the overall mission and work of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, including the critical assistance it provides for parolees as they transition back into our communities,” Adams said in a statement. “However, I feel the placement of such a facility should not come at the expense of the city’s limited manufacturing zoned land stock.”

Construction on the site has begun, and the building is scheduled to open in April 2015.

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