Getting a Central Park view in Manhattan these days usually requires a pretty steep mortgage, but another option can be had with time off for good behavior. Just opposite the bucolic Harlem Meer at 31-33 West 110th Street (Central Park North), the New York State Department of Correctional Services has run their Lincoln Facility, a 408-bed minimum security prison for men, for the past 26 years. Unfortunately, the residents don’t get to appreciate the view much, as the cells are kept off the exterior wall, but the caged-in rec yard on the roof must provide amazing views of the park and Manhattan skyline.
Originally built in the 1910s by the Young Women’s Hebrew Association as a dormitory for recent immigrants to a once-thriving Harlem Jewish community, the building was sold in 1942. All of the original exterior ornamentation remains, including the pronounced cornice and pedimented entrance. Only a couple of exterior flood lights and security cameras have been added. Curiously, the two trees outside the main entrance are filled with multiple bird houses. The site was also briefly home to a relaxation center for black soldiers during WWII and the Lincoln School operated by Columbia’s Teacher’s College. Now the bulk of the residents are on work release programs, checking into the facility occasionally, rather than permanently staying. Ironically, the few long-term residents are those white-collar criminals that don’t qualify for parole, and who’ve probably had the fortune of different Central Park views for comparison.