Opposition grows quickly to surprise plan to move criminal court to John St.

Dep. Mayor Cas Holloway surprised Community Board 1 members t two weeks ago when he told a criminal court was moving to 66 John St. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

Dep. Mayor Cas Holloway surprised Community Board 1 members two weeks ago when he told them that a criminal court was moving to 66 John St. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | Cas Holloway, the city’s deputy mayor for operations, came to Community Board 1’s full board meeting on Oct. 22 to defend the city’s plans to move the Summons Arraignment part of the Criminal Court now housed at 346 Broadway to 71 Thomas St. However, in explaining the rationale for that move, Holloway inadvertently opened an even bigger “can of worms,” as board member Joel Kopel put it.

Almost casually, Holloway mentioned that another proposed move from 346 Broadway would place the Criminal Court’s Probation Division at 66 John St.

After he let that drop, an uproar ensued.

“That’s in the Financial District,” Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of C.B. 1, cried out. “We didn’t know about that.”

By that time, Holloway had repeatedly said in defense of the 71 Thomas St. plan that, “All that you’re going to be left with in this neighborhood is the minor infractions court function between the hours of 9 and 5, Monday through Friday.”

It turned out that Holloway’s definition of “this neighborhood” was confined to Tribeca, as opposed to all of Community Board 1.

The Probation Division services people who have criminal records and who have previously been incarcerated.

Fearing that people with criminal records were about to flood their neighborhood, more than 1,100 people had signed a petition against the 71 Thomas St. move. Prior to Holloway’s arrival at the C.B. 1 meeting, around 100 people had stood up to speak against it. Before Holloway arrived, most of these people had left, not knowing that he was coming.

The 346 Broadway building, scheduled to be sold, now houses divisions that deal with summons arraignments, probation case management and an alternative court for dispute resolution — all part of the Criminal Court

“This is not just about taking one function out of 346 Broadway and moving it to 71 Thomas St.,” Holloway said. “The overall context of this is a massive real estate reorganization. It’s part of a reduction in the size of the city’s footprint in the Lower Manhattan area by 1.2 million square feet.”

He said the reduction is requiring “a series of more than 140 transactions — leases and sales. It’s mind-boggingly complicated.”

Holloway said the sale of 346 Broadway and 49-51 Chambers St. would generate significant revenues for the city. In addition, he said repeatedly that as part of this transaction, there would be a new $20 million community facility at 346 Broadway.

“I think overall this proposal is a significant improvement in the community based on what’s here now,” he said. “I really can’t think of a good reason why you wouldn’t want to help us move this along as quickly as possible.”

This remark elicited jeering laughter.

Attempting to quell fears that the Summons Arraignment Court would bring people with a criminal record into what is a fast-growing residential neighborhood, Holloway repeatedly stated that people who appear for Summons Arraignment are there for “minor infractions” such as container violations, biking on the sidewalk and obstructing traffic.

He mentioned “significant queuing of people outside of 346 Broadway” and said that would no longer be the case at 71 Thomas, where 250 people would be able to line up inside the building. Moreover, he said, “There’s already a Civil Court that has been operating at 71 Thomas St. for 20 years.”

He went on to say that, “If you look at the whole picture here — the overall impact of court activities including the activities involved with people who have committed or who have been charged with committing crimes, is reducing dramatically. All of those functions are moving out of the neighborhood.”

Then came the bombshell.

“You kept on saying tonight over and over again that the other two infractions are going out of the community,” said C.B. 1 member John Fratta. “Is that out of the Tribeca community or out of Community Board 1?

“That’s out of Tribeca,” said Holloway.

“Do you know where it’s going?” Fratta asked. “Is it going to be going into another community in C.B. 1?”

“One of the locations is 66 John St.,” Holloway said.

Community board members were angry.

“You’re putting all these criminals in an educational environment where people are walking to and from school,” C.B. 1’s Kopel said . “That area is the fastest growing in Manhattan. Why would you want to put something this toxic in that area?”

Holloway said he wasn’t prepared to talk about 66 John St.

After the meeting, residents close to the building began to circulate a petition opposing the move. After a week, almost 1,100 people had signed it, according to Patrick Kennell, a lawyer who created the petition.

“John Street is ‘stroller alley,’” said Linda Garlick, one of the residents. “It has two Pace dorms and is a main thoroughfare for tourists to the World Financial Center and the Seaport. It is just a couple of hundred yards from the soon-to-open Fulton [Transit] Center.”

According to Kennell, the Department of Probation supervises 24,000 people each year through its Adult Court, “which includes individuals with major felony convictions, registered sex offenders, Kendra’s Law psychiatric cases, confirmed major drug dealers and those with known major gang affiliations.”

He said that in addition, the proposed move would “present traffic, parking and other logistical nightmares given the narrow and busy surrounding streets and sidewalks. At the very least, we think our community deserves more information.”

On Sunday, Kennell and others opposed to the 66 John St. move began to circulate a flyer headed “Say ‘No!’ to NYC Department of Probation move to John St.!”

“Hopefully over the next 24 hours, you won’t be able to walk down a Downtown street and not run into one,” Kennell said.

The flyer urges people opposed to the move to attend a Community Board 1 Financial District Committee meeting on Nov. 6 at 6 p.m.

The meeting has been moved from its usual venue at 49-51 Chambers St. to 250 Broadway, 19th floor, to accommodate what is expected to be an overflow crowd.

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2 Responses to Opposition grows quickly to surprise plan to move criminal court to John St.

  1. I hope that the opposition will grow more, I don't like that plan…

  2. danielfitzsimmons

    This story is deeply flawed. Did you even speak to anyone from the probation department? Read this: http://nypress.com/downtown-residents-protest-pla

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