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Gowanus Neighbors Sue Over Planned Parole Office

By Leslie Albrecht | November 4, 2014 8:51am
 The parole office now under construction at 15 Second Ave. in Gowanus. Neighbors are suing to try to halt its opening.
The parole office now under construction at 15 Second Ave. in Gowanus. Neighbors are suing to try to halt its opening.
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GOWANUS — Residents fighting a plan to open a parole office in Gowanus have taken their battle to court.

A group called Gowanus United filed suit Monday against the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the Office of General Services, charging that there wasn't enough environmental review of the facility.

The lawsuit also takes aim at the city for "illegally" granting a zoning waiver for the facility, according to an announcement from Gowanus United.

Opponents contend that the parole office will worsen traffic and create more demand for parking, which will harm small businesses and residents, Gowanus United said in a statement. They also say state officials intentionally kept residents in the dark about plans to bring the parole facility to the neighborhood.

"While we have welcomed our share of social services here in Gowanus, and we recognize and support the importance of ex-offender re-entry, we are left wondering — why the secrecy, and why the rush to force the site here with no community input?” Gowanus United member Adine Pusey said in a statement.

The parole office, which would serve up to 6,000 ex-prisoners from across Brooklyn, is now under construction at 15 Second Ave. Its arrival, abruptly announced in July, caught residents and local officials by surprise.

Since then, neighbors have mounted an increasingly organized campaign to halt the facility. They've launched online petitions, hosted public meetings and hired the high-profile public relations firm Geto & de Milly. Environmental attorney Steven C. Russo of the firm Greenberg Traurig will represent Gowanus United in the lawsuit.

Some observers have criticized the group's passionate reaction to the parole center, which will be on an out-of-the-way street overlooking the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal.

"If this isn't an OK spot for a parole office then what is? We need less NIMBY more burden-sharing," wrote one critic on Twitter.

Opponents say the parole office is too close to several schools and too far from public transit, meaning that parolees will be walking for blocks through the neighborhood to reach the office.

The state Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Officials have previously said the parole office will improve neighborhood safety because it will be staffed by more than 100 armed peace officers.