The city has spent nearly $40 million over the last 12 years on office space for Queens prosecutors and other law enforcement officials while a city-owned building attached to the borough's courthouse sits empty, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Every day, some 277 prosecutors, investigators and police officers commute along a five-block stretch of dangerous Queens Boulevard to the courthouse, often lugging sensitive case folders or pushing carts filled with confidential court and investigative reports.
Their trek begins at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, where the city spends nearly $3 million a year renting 80,000 square feet on four floors for the DA’s team, hate crimes and special victims bureaus, a sitting Queens grand jury and the court officers and police officers who guard them.
But the city also maintains the empty Queens House of Detention, a 10-story jail that's been closed since 2002 and is directly attached to the rear of the courthouse.
A few days ago, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown illustrated the point while standing in his main conference room. He tapped on a wall that literally separates his office from the aging jail — a wall that inmates once tried to crash through to escape to freedom, he recalled.
Brown said the city has been renting space down the street as workspace for about half of his prosecutors and police investigators since before he became the borough’s top law enforcement officer 25 years ago.
It's therefore not surprising that he and other court and NYPD officials want someone to take a sledgehammer to the wall and renovate the empty jail, turning it into a thriving office space for them and other social service agencies.