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If the city were jailed and went to court, it might have a good case for pleading insanity when it comes to the Brooklyn hoosegow.
That after the city announced that it is essentially suing itself regarding the reopening and possible doubling of the 759-bed Brooklyn House of Detention, 275 Atlantic Avenue.
The lawsuit, brought on by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), seeks to compel former mayoral candidate, Comptroller William Thompson, to sign off on a contract as per his job to get the ball rolling on the planned $440 million expansion.
Thompson has consistently sided with local residents along the burgeoning Atlantic Avenue corridor, in that neither the expansion nor the jail is needed, and that selling the facility would bring the city much-needed revenue and help better the neighborhood.
The city and the Department of Corrections (DOC) have countered more than a quarter of the city’s roughly 13,000 inmates on Riker’s Island come from the borough, and that inmates would be closer to family and attorneys if housed in the borough facility.
Additionally, these officials argue the Brooklyn jail has an underground tunnel leading directly to the criminal courts and housing them there will save money from transporting inmates back and forth from Rikers for court appearances.
The jail has only marginally been used since closing as a daily jail in 2003.
The two sides went to court earlier this year on the issue and a split decision was rendered in which the court upheld the city’s right to reuse the jail, but said it could not expand it without going through the city’s land use review procedure (ULURP) process.
Thompson, though, rejected the $31 million contract between the DDC and the architectural firm of Ricci Greene Associates for design and related constructions cost estimates.
Specifically, Thompson said he rejected the contracts because the DDC altered the total construction cost of the project from $240 million to $450 million without starting the process over.
Thompson also charged the DDC imposed onerous experience requirements on firms responding to the DDC’s Request for Proposals (RFP).
The Bloomberg administration argues the contract was let out through the letter of the law.
“The city’s Department of Design and Construction has sought to register a contract — properly procured — that will permit the City to perform the environmental review that the Comptroller has said is necessary,” said the city’s Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo.
“We had hoped that the Comptroller’s personal disagreement with Administration policy regarding the project would not cause him to ignore his statutory obligation to register the contract. Unfortunately, that is not the case,” he added.
Thompson spokesperson Michael Loughran countered that the comptroller acted well within his authority to first reject and then refuse to register a contract for a project that has been plagued with problems since its inception.
“This (litigation) move was not unexpected and we feel that since this contract was a product of an improper process tainted with favoritism, the courts will uphold the comptroller’s actions,” Loughran said.
DOC spokesperson Stephen Morello there are currently about 20 inmates as a work crew doing cleaning, maintenance and repairs.
The case is expected to be assigned to a State Supreme Court judge later this month.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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