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Bronx Community Draws Up Plans for Former Jail

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A city jail that was closed three years ago because it was full of problems has become a field of dreams. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

An environmental study is going on at the old Spofford Juvenile Center in Hunts Point, drilling for hazards that could be on the property.

As "Comanche," a Hunts Point resident, walked by, some old emotions resurfaced.

"I haven't been down this block for quite a while, and it just brought back a lot of memories when I was locked up in here," he said.

The Spofford Jail was infamous for decades with complaints about how violent the juvenile lockup was. The facility was finally closed in 2011, but the question still remains: what should happen with the five-acre site?

"My dream for Spofford Juvenile Detention Center is to counteract what its history was," said Majora Carter, an urban revitalization strategist. "From the time my dad was a janitor there, who used to come home in the '70s and say how he wished that he could bring kids home because he knew that it broke children."

So Carter teamed up with AutoDesk, a design company, to find ways to transform Spofford. Architectural students came up with concepts for environmentally friendly developments.

Residents want the city to move forward with a plan.

"It could bring jobs to the community, more activities for the kids, more housing in the area," said Leroy Burton of the Hunts Point Advisory Board.

"What I envision for here would be a community center, tutoring programs for children, and also, I would also like a museum put in on the history of Hunts Point," said Sandra DeJesus, parent association president at P.S. 48.

Carter said Bronx representatives did make some progress with the Bloomberg administration.

Community leaders said they understand that Mayor Bill de Blasio and his commissioners have only been in office eight months, and the Spofford redesign may not be a top priority right now, but they don't want it on the back burner too much longer.

"If we didn't do anything to keep the momentum of what the future of Spofford could be, then yes, I would be fearful that it will sit there for a decade or more," Carter said.

So that doesn't happen, on September 16, there will be an exhibit in Hunts Point showcasing various designs and encouraging others to submit their ideas.

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