For sale: Prime N.Y. location with bars on its windows
NEW YORK — On a recent morning on the west side of Manhattan, Wendy Featherstone showed off a prime piece of real estate that many New Yorkers don't know exists.
The eight-story brick building in Chelsea's gallery district has three terraces, one with views of the Statue of Liberty and cruise ships docking along the Hudson River. There's an indoor pool, basketball court and even a private chapel with stained-glass windows.
Featherstone isn't a pushy real estate agent — she's a prison superintendent. The property once was a medium-security women's lockup called Bayview Correctional Facility. And those terraces? They're really caged-in recreation areas.
The superintendent ran Bayview until Superstorm Sandy made the Hudson surge and sent a wall of water into a facility as she and her workers helplessly looked on.
“You know in the ‘Ten Commandments' the way the water is when they part the sea? That's how the water was coming down,” she recalled as she walked an empty cell block. “It was the river. The river was in here.”
Featherstone rode out the storm on a cot in her second-floor office after the power went out. The water receded, and no one was harmed. But a year later, the Bayview Correctional Facility remains empty.
The 153 women — serving time for robberies, assaults and lesser crimes — were evacuated a few days before the storm to upstate prisons and never came back. The flooding destroyed boilers and damaged electrical equipment, causing $600,000 in damage. The state's budget called for the facility to close by the end of the fiscal year as a cost-saving measure, leaving the building in limbo.
The state has sold other shuttered prisons elsewhere to local governments that have turned them into business parks or to private buyers at auction. The Empire State Development agency is still assessing the best use for Bayview, but its location alone suggests it has more potential than the typical redevelopment stepchild.
Bayview abuts a condominium high-rise designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and topped by a penthouse unit that sold for nearly $20 million. Promotional material for the high-rise touts neighborhood features that are steps away — a slew of gourmet restaurants, the sprawling Chelsea Piers sports facility and the popular Highline elevated park — but makes no mention of the vertical prison that's in plain view from the upper floors.
In such a hot neighborhood, potential buyers would swarm if they knew the building could be torn down and replaced with more high-end residential development, said Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraiser Miller Samuel Inc.
“The value there is in the land, or ‘the dirt,' as developers call it,” he said. “It's all about the dirt.”
Miller said it's too soon to estimate the value of the Bayview site, but he cited the recent sale of a nearby lot that once had a gas station for a reported $23.5 million.
Development of the former prison would be the next step in the colorful history of a site that was built in 1931 as a YMCA known as the Seaman's House, where merchant sailors sought comfort while their ships were docked on the Hudson.
In the late 1960s, the state obtained the property, spent about $4 million to upgrade it and used it for drug-rehab programs. It was switched to a prison in the 1970s, first for men and later women.
The tiny rooms once occupied by sailors became jail cells with barred windows. Inmates on the west side of the building were the lucky ones: They could see the ships on the Hudson and July 4th fireworks displays.
The indoor pool was shut down and turned into a storage facility that still has elaborate tile and the words “Shallow” on one end and “Deep” on the other. Remaining is a large mural showing a tall ship adrift on a stormy sea, inscribed with, “They that go down to the sea in ships/These men see the works of the Lord.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Suspect in killings of wealthy DC family arrested
- Obama trade bill advances in Senate
- Senators push for full funding for Amtrak
- Dogs split from the wolf pack earlier than thought, DNA analysis suggests
- Technology enhances view of Manhattan
- Ex-Va. lawmaker plans to wed teen in sex scandal
- Eldest Duggar child admits to molesting girls as teen
- S.C. beach town prepares for biker influx
- 6 Baltimore officers indicted in Gray’s death
- Skateboard used in attack, officer says of shooting in Olympia, Washington
- Fixes to Native American voting hurdles sought