Former jail site needs more protection, say residents

Ryan Kelley

The city has responded to public complaints about intruders and tagging on the site of the former jail on Spofford Avenue with No Trespassing signs.

City should do more to secure site of future ‘Peninsula’ development, they say

Security at the shuttered juvenile jail on Spofford Avenue must be shored up in the months before construction starts on a huge, multi-use development or someone is going to get hurt, say residents. In addition, the city must do a better job notifying those who will be affected by the new five-building complex that they can have a say in how the project proceeds.

Just a half-dozen residents—most from one Spofford Avenue co-op—attended a June 26 meeting at PS 48 to discuss their concerns, a block away from the shuttered Bridges Juvenile Justice Center where the complex will be built. Mandated meetings are part of an Environmental Quality Review process for new developments.

Several blamed lack of adequate notice by the city for the poor turnout. Josephine Cruz said she learned of the meeting from her neighbors just hours before it started, and never saw a notification or a flier.

Residents have reason to be worried, they argue, pointing out that a large hole in an exterior fence and another under a gate for vehicles at the old jail make access easy for intruders. Beyond that gate, a door into the facility is open halfway. Reinforced glass on a door near the vehicle entrance proves their point. It appears to have been struck several times, leaving spider-web shatter marks.

To mark their territory, trespassers have recently been sneaking onto the site and tagging the exterior walls along Spofford Avenue.

But despite their complaints, nearly two weeks after the meeting the graffiti remains and the holes in the fences have not been fixed. Instead, the city has placed No Trespassing signs on the fence.

Bridges is in the hands of three different city agencies: The Economic Development Corp,. Adult and Children’s Services (ACS), and Housing Preservation and Development. Recently, ACS vans have regularly parked outside the facility. but it remains unclear which of the three agencies is responsible for upkeep in this transitional phase.

“We have a lot of kids and we don’t need those kids going in there,” said Rose De Leon. “God forbid something happens to them because [the city] did not protect that building.”

Others were nervous about what happens once construction actually begins, fearing that dust from the worksite will worsen the area’s air quality problems.

“I have asthma, my son has asthma, and we need to know where that dust is going to go,” said Cruz.

City officials are required to respond in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement later this summer. One Spofford Avenue resident, Myriam Morales, told representatives from Economic Development Corp.“We would like another meeting in case we are not in agreement with what you have to answer, so we can see where we can all negotiate.”

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