Monday, December 7, 2015

The Passaic County Youth Detention Center

The history of the Passaic County Youth Detention Center goes back to 1928, when the building was built as a nurses residence for the Valley View Sanatorium. The hospital served as Passaic County's tuberculosis sanatorium during the outbreak of the 1920's. 

Around 1987, the nurses residence was renovated into the Passaic County Youth Detention Center. It wouldnt see any real change for another decade. Over time the attic space of the building was renovated into a third cellblock.

In the 1990's, Passaic county made a deal with the owners of a nearby quarry, Braen Stone, to sell nearly 9 acres of property directly behind the detention center. This caused a lot of uproar around town, as residents already thought the quarry was too close to their homes. The citizens caused enough of an outrage to make Passaic County fail to renew the contract.

Although blasting from the quarry occasionally damaged the building, a large addition was added to the rear of the structure. This brought the total capacity of the facility to 86. The new section of the building was a modern octagonal edifice similar to a warehouse. Girls were segregated to one half of the building, and boys in the other. The new addition included school rooms, a basketball court, and cafeterias on each floor.

Despite much resistence from the family members of those housed in the detention center, the Wayne facility was closed in 2010. Even though they had just spent millions a few decades earlier to build the large new addition, they felt it would be more cost effective to send the 60 juveniles living in the  building to Essex County. The projected savings were $128 million by the year 2019. This figure is so high because the closure eliminated 153 jobs for corrections officers in the county. Though Essex County promised to try and hire some of the staff back, they certainly didn't need everyone.

The building was vacated, but kept full of records throughout the first floor. The power was still on, and occasionally police officers used the first floor as a break room. However, the building was eventually sold to the quarry operated by Braen Stone. Braen was the same company who, just two decades earlier, was in a lawsuit with the county for taking the agitated neighbors complaints to heart and not renewing the contract they drafted for use of the land. This time, the neighbors would feel the same outrage they did 20 years prior. Only this time, nobody was going to listen.

While securing the proper permits to demolish the structure, they chewed up the land behind the building until they were almost underneath it. This ensured that this building would never see new life again. By the fall of 2015, the owners of the building finally got their permits, and before long the facility was completely leveled. Not many people ever took the time to visit the building. The complex it was a part of was obscured by the quarry, steep graded hills, and long driveways adorned with "No Trespassing" signs. Though the buildings may soon be forgotten by the residents of Wayne and Haledon, they will never be forgotten by my friends and I.

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