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A cell inside the shuttered Brooklyn Detention Complex was left in a state of disrepair, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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PHOTOS: Inside Brooklyn’s Infamous House of Detention Jail

As plans to close chaotic Rikers Island slowly turn, the Atlantic Avenue lockup is already empty and awaiting demolition. THE CITY toured the old jail and found eerie signs of the building’s 65-year history of holding countless detainees.

When the Brooklyn Detention Complex opened in 1956, then-Mayor Robert Wagner hailed the facility as a modern marvel with multiple day rooms, a gym and a library.

“This building we see today is more than a house of detention,” he told those gathered at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Boerum Place. “It is more than a series of cells.”

Some 65 years later, the 11-story jail is slated for the wrecking ball within months as one of the first concrete first steps of the city’s roadmap off Rikers Island.

THE CITY recently got a rare look inside the 759-bed lockup, now surrounded by pricey condos and a boutique hotel. For years, jail officials blocked the public from seeing much beyond the visiting room on the first floor, citing security concerns.

The building — renovated in 2012 and closed in December 2020 — is filled with an extensive series of individual cells essentially the size of large closets with low ceilings. Each has metal toilets right next to the beds, small sinks and desk ledges. The cells are closed off with old-fashioned metal bars.

The Brooklyn Detention Complex next to criminal court stopped housing inmates in 2019, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

For the uninitiated, just a few seconds inside the cramped living quarters can trigger claustrophobia. Clouded windows throughout much of the building make it impossible to see the bustle outside on Atlantic Avenue.

Natural light peeks through the rooftop gym, although the sunshine is partially obscured by 360-degree fencing — including overhead, which makes it tough to properly arc a basketball shot.

The day rooms Wagner and the approximately 200 dignitaries hailed at the opening ceremony are only big enough for a few small tables and most lack air conditioning.

Chaos-plagued Rikers Island is slated to be replaced by a series of smaller jails in every borough, except Staten Island, by 2027 as part of a $8.3 billion de Blasio administration plan.

The Brooklyn jailhouse is expected to add 159 beds under the most recent plan — down from an initial proposal to increase capacity by more than 600 beds.

With its demolition pending, here’s what could be a last public glimpse inside the Brooklyn House of Detention:

Electric panels used to lock cells were torn out after the Brooklyn Detention Complex shuttered in 2019. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A hallway in the housing area. Electric panels used to lock cells were torn out after the jail closed.


An inmate left jars of peanut butter in a cell at the shuttered Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The interior of a cell shows some remnants of past occupants.


A visitor center inside the closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A sign from the visitors’ area.


A visitor center inside the closed Brooklyn Detention Complex allowed for children to play with their parent awaiting trial, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A visiting area office had yet to be emptied.


Families were able to reunite inside a visitor’s center at the now-closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The main visiting area.


Some food was left inside the commissary after the Brooklyn Detention Complex closed in 2019. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The jail commissary.


Meals were prepared inside an industrial-size kitchen inside the now-closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 11, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The jail kitchen.


Guards designated an area to frisk inmates inside the now-closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Guards designated an area to frisk inmates on a cell block.


Inmates would use a shared shower stall at the end of a cell block inside the closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Leftover soap from a show stall.


A shaving station sat at the end of a cell block inside the closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A shaving station at the end of a cell block.


The closed Brooklyn Detention Complex had a recreation center on its roof, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The rooftop recreation area.


Inmates had a few common room inside the now-shuttered Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A common room.


A chapel inside the closed Brooklyn Detention Complex allowed for multiple faith services, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Inside the interfaith chapel.


An inmate hung a cross in a cell inside the closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A jail cell interior.


An inmate counted down the days until their court hearing inside the now-closed Brooklyn Detention Complex, Nov. 10, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Marking time on a cell wall.

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