Ever wonder what occupies that prime piece of real estate on the corner of West Houston and Varick streets in the West Village? Apparently a chronically overcrowded jail for "illegal immigrants, asylum-seekers and legal immigrants who face deportation because they have past criminal convictions," the Times reports.

The little known The Varick Street Detention Facility imprisons about 11,000 men every year on the fourth floor of a federal office building, where inmates complain of "frigid temperatures, mildew and meals that leave detainees hungry and willing to clean for $1 a day to pay for commissary food." The jail has been "chronically overcrowded since 1998" and has failed to meet federal standards for the past nine years because it lacks an outdoor recreation space. Worse, lawyers allege they can't provide proper counsel to prisoners because "immigrant detainees, unlike criminal defendants, can be held without legal representation and moved from state to state without notice," the paper of record notes. “Any attempt to get support or services for them is stymied because you don’t know where they’re going to end up,” said Lynn M. Kelly, the director of the Justice Center.

Though a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said he "considers the access to legal services at Varick Street as a good model," lawyers from the City Bar Justice Center begged to differ, issuing a report today demanding "that there be government-funded appointed counsel for all detained immigrants who cannot afford private counsel."