Vernon C. Bain Center

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Features, History

Past Prisons: Inside the new lives of 7 former NYC jails

By Penelope Bareau, Mon, April 10, 2017

A 1938 photo showing the Women’s House of Detention south of the Jefferson Market Courthouse, via NYPL

The past week has been full of news about Rikers Island and Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that the notorious prison will be closed and replaced with smaller facilities throughout the boroughs. Ideas for re-use of its 413 acres have included commercial, residential and mixed-use properties; academic centers; sports and recreation facilities; a convention center; or an expansion of nearby LaGuardia airport. And while anything final is estimated to be a decade away, this isn’t the first prison in NYC to be adaptively reused. From a health spa to a production studio to a housing development, 6sqft explores the new lives of seven past prisons.

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Bronx, History

Vernon C. Bain prison barge, Rikers Island, NYC Department of Corrections, prison ship

Photo via G Captain

Thanks to “Law & Order” and “Orange Is the New Black,” we all think we’re experts on the local prison system. But there’s a lot more to incarceration than Elliot Stabler’s interrogation room and the Litchfield Penitentiary. For example, we bet you didn’t know there’s a giant floating barge in the East River that is home to 800 prisoners?

The Vernon C. Bain Center is a 47,326-ton jail barge used by the New York City Department of Corrections, located near Hunts Point in the Bronx just one mile west of the SUNY Maritime College. It was built in 1992 in New Orleans for $161 million as a means to curb overcrowding at Rikers Island. In the past, it’s been a facility for traditional inmates and juveniles, but today it’s used as a temporary holding and processing center.

Find out more about this floating prison