CLAREMONT — The state approved a $6 million grant to help a New York organization transform a former Bronx prison into an economic hub for ex-cons.
The Thomas Mott Osborne Memorial Fund, a group affiliated with the Osborne Association that has helped the formerly incarcerated reenter society for more than 80 years, has been working to turn the shuttered Fulton Correctional Facility into the Fulton Economic Development and Community Reentry Center for about three years.
The building would contain numerous services for people who have dealt with the criminal justice system, including emergency and temporary housing, job training and placement programs, and support for creating and growing businesses that will hire formerly incarcerated individuals.
Workforce development and services will be on the first, second, third and fifth floors of the building; residences will be on the fourth, sixth and seventh floors; and culinary services will be in the basement.
Gloria Alston, chair of Bronx Community Board 3, said she was excited about the opportunity to transform the former prison.
"I think that’s a good idea," she said. "It’s hard to find jobs for young men in the South Bronx."
The building, located at 1511 Fulton Ave., has had a variety of purposes over the years. It was built in 1906 and first known as the Fulton Avenue Church House for Episcopalians, but it was also used as a nursing home, a drug rehab center and the home of the Bronx Jewish Center.
Fulton was converted into a minimum security prison in 1975 and remained that way until closing in 2011. The state gave the facility to Osborne in March 2013.
Fulton was one of 11 correctional and juvenile justice facilities, many of which were only at 50 percent capacity, that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration slated for closure in 2011 to help save money.
The state decided to support Osborne's project to help mitigate the negative consequences that closing a prison can have on people who used to work there, according to a spokesman for Empire State Development, the state agency that issued the grant.
The project's estimated opening date is December 2015, and its total estimated cost is $6,705,000. Along with the $6 million in state funding, the Bronx Borough President's Office has provided a grant of $657,000, and Osborne is putting up the remaining $48,000 itself.
"My office allocated more than half a million dollars towards this project because I believe that transforming this structure into a re-entry facility will provide Bronxites who are transitioning back into society from prison with the necessary tools and resources to succeed and become proactive members of our community," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a statement.
A public hearing about this plan will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 12 from 1 to 2 p.m. in Bronx Community Board 3's Community Board Conference Room at 1426 Boston Road.
Osborne Executive Director Liz Gaynes referred to the project as a victory for the borough.
"This isn't just great news for the Osborne Association," she said in a statement. "It's also great news for The Bronx and the individuals and families who have been affected by incarceration."
Alston said she was grateful to see an economic development center replace a correctional facility.
"Anything is better than a prison," she said.