Unassuming Immigrant Detention Center in Greenwich Village to Close, Move to Jersey

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    NEWSLETTERS

    I used to work over in Greenwich Village, just a block from the Varick Street Detention Facility, a rather unassuming holding center for illegal immigrants that's set to close next month.

    During my morning commute at least once a week, I'd sleepily turn the corner on the way to work after exiting the Spring St. 1 train subway station and come face-to-face with a line of grim-faced ICE guards watching over a line of disheartened young men, most of whom I guessed at the time to be of Mexican nationality, bound in handcuffs and ankle shackles, as they marched onwards to face fates unknown into the building's interior.

    The guards, armed and alert, would stop those of us walking on the sidewalks as they made sure all detainees had made it off the buses and inside. It's a routine that's been going years before I came to walk those streets, and I assumed would go on for many more.

    Back in 1993, the ACLU commissioned a two-year study that found the detainees, which were then under the authority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, were "denied fresh air, sunshine and outdoor exercise throughout their incarceration and ... denied meaningful access to legal counsel and to the courts while in jail."

    In 1999, a 40-year-old Dominican man awaiting deportation died there of pneumonia after complaining of chest pain and a cough. Nurses passed his complaints off as a result of a simple cold and unfortunately never brought in a doctor to address his concerns.

    A year later, it "fell short of national detention standards" for its lack of an outdoor space, but was allowed to stay open until September 11th, 2001, when the terror attacks on New York City "forced its evacuation," according to the Times.

    Seven years later, in 2008, the New York City Bar Association received a petition signed by 100 men held there that accused the center of providing "cramped, filty quarters where dire medical needs were ignored and hungry prisoners were put to work for $1 a day," which led to a Times feature on the mysterious detention center.

    Finally, after years of accusations, offenses, closures and reopenings, 1010 WINS is reporting the center's due to close once more, this time a victim of cheaper costs found across the river.

    Its soon-to-be former home, which some realtors are now calling "Hudson Square," has seen an influx of commercial residents, including MTV Networks which opened offices at Hudson and King in 2008. A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Associated Press that the detainees currently being held in the center will be moved to the Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny, N.J., where costs will be "less than half the cost of the Manhattan facility."

    But whether the detention center will close for good and be converted into cubicles has yet to be told. If so, I feel for the sorry chap who's due to sit there one day, toiling on a spreadsheet among the ghosts of detainees left behind.