Prison for Sale in Chelsea
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.
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 current 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 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. 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.
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