With a death count in the twenties and its homes left decimated, Staten Island is just beginning the long haul of recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Now local and state officials are considering an unlikely location to house displaced residents: Prison.
Southern Staten Island's Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison, was closed last year as part of Governor Cuomo's prison-closing program. With capacity to house and feed 900 displaced Staten Islanders, the facility would help a large portion of the 5,200 borough residents who have applied for FEMA housing.
Not everyone is jumping at the chance to check for a stay at the Big House. "I lost everything, but I still have my pride. We don’t have to stay in a prison,” said Wally Martinez, a displaced resident, to the Post. But the prison "shouldn’t be taken off the table because of a quote unquote stigma," said Councilman James Oddo. "Between being cold and having people dry, in a warm, secure place, I know what my choice is.”
Whether the prison is even inhabitable is still up in the air: The facility's bars have been shut for nearly a year, and "all of the major infrastructure components, such as boilers and wastewater system, were deactivated," said Peter Cutler, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections. The SI Advance reports the building currently lacks heat, but that generators could be brought in to warm the facility.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and for thousands with nowhere to turn, someplace with electricity, heat and a working kitchen might be an attractive place to call home for the foreseeable future. Despite its less-than-dignified past.