Former Women's Prison in Chelsea, Once Held Women Down, Being Repurposed to Lift Them Up

A former Womens' Prison is starting the process of transforming into the city's first ever 'women's building', after being vacant since Hurricane Sandy. As Natalie Duddridge reports, though the doors won't officially open for a few more years, new tenants are already looking at the space.

Serving up soul food, Sharon Richardson started this catering company after transforming her life.

She spent 20 years behind bars for a domestic violence case — her last year was spent inside this building.

What was once the Bayview Correctional Facility — now being transformed into the first ever "women's building" in Chelsea.

"The building will be open to young women, and people who need help people who need to hear stories about struggle and survive," said Sharon Richardson, who spent 20 years in prison.

The Bayview Correctional Facility has been vacant since it closed its doors in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. The storm forced the evacuation of its inmates to another facility.

"This prison was a place of so much pain it symbolized confinement and pain and it locked up some of the most vulnerable women in our society," said Pamela Shifman, executive director of the Novo Foundation.

Now the building will be turned into a safe haven for dozens of women's rights organizations.

But before that can happen, developers say renovations run by  a female focused team, will take a few more years,

"We decided to have as many women as possible develop this building in trades both engineers, architects, every trade possible from a crane operator," said Lela Goren, with The Goren Group.

Though the doors won't officially open until 2020, a street fair was held Sunday  so developers could interact with future tenants, and get their input.

Organizers have set up a "vision wall" to give the  public a chance to have their say of what kind of tenants and programs they'd like to see go inside this building.

"I really want to see more girls being educated in jobs that are geared mostly towards men, like the tech companies," said one passerby.

Eventually, office doors will replace the bars inside this 100,000 square foot building, filled with programs to help women like Sharon Richardson re-enter society.

"We too can come home pay our taxes turn our life around and give back to the community," Richardson said.

Developers say they have spoken to hundreds of small businesses owned by women.

Including, Richardson. Who says she hopes to set up her new career, in a place where she was once held prisoner.

Charter Spectrum customers get full access
to all our video, including our live stream.
 

Tune to Spectrum New NY1 on TV, online, online, or on Local On Demand Channel 1020 for:

Road to City Hall, Mon.-Fri. at 7pm and 10pm
In Focus with Cheryl Wills, Sun. at 10:30am & 3:30pm
• On Stage, Sat.-Sun. 9:30am & 7:30pm + Tues. 12:30am
Sports on 1, nightly at 11:35pm and 4am