State raises shuttered Chelsea jail for supportive housing redevelopment

Proposals for Bayview Correctional Facility project to include 60 affordable units

NY governor Kathy Hochul and 550 West 20th Street (Getty, Google Maps)
NY governor Kathy Hochul and 550 West 20th Street (Getty, Google Maps)

Ten years after closing, a former Chelsea prison could find a new fate with a redevelopment centered on supportive housing.

The Empire State Development Corporation will seek proposals for the former Bayview Correctional Facility in West Chelsea to be converted into supportive housing for the formerly homeless. Officials said in a letter to local lawmakers the new property would include at least 60 supportive housing units.

In addition to providing affordable access, supportive housing also typically offers on-site social services for residents.

The redevelopment of the facility at 550 West 20th Street is being folded into the larger Penn Station redevelopment, which recently received the green light from state officials. The connection seems superfluous, though, as the facility is a dozen blocks from Penn Station.

The redevelopment of the Bayview Correctional Facility could satisfy elected officials in Community Board 4 as the Public Authorities Control Board vote on the Penn Station project looms large.

The Penn Station plan calls for up to 18 million square feet of new buildings in exchange for funds that will allow the state to improve the bleak transit hub. The plan calls for the delivery of 1,800 units, including 648 that would either be rent restricted or include supportive housing; the proposed residences in Chelsea would be additional to that total.

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The 108,000-square-foot prison closed in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy unleashed $600,000 of damages upon the property. The ESD solicited proposals for a project to overhaul the facility. NoVo Foundation, led by Peter Buffett (Warren Buffett’s son) and his wife, signed a 99-year lease in 2015, agreeing to pay $200 million over the course of the lease.

The completed project was set to become the “Women’s Building” and house organizations that advocated for women’s rights. NoVo pulled out of the project in 2019, however, citing timelines and costs that exceeded its expectations.

There have previously been calls for Bayview to be reopened as a prison as the city works to close the controversial jails on Rikers Island. Supportive housing could be used to alleviate some of the concerns about keeping the prison offline.

“I think that the decision by the state to use Bayview for supportive housing is something that I think many advocates and organizations would support,” Dana Kaplan, senior advisor to the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, told The City.

— Holden Walter-Warner

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