The City Comes Clean on Its Criminal Summons Court Plans

The city does indeed intend to move the criminal summons court from 346 Broadway (at Leonard) to 40 Worth (specifically, the entrance at Thomas and W. Broadway): “This is the plan,” said Pauline Yu of the mayor’s community assistant unit at last night’s meeting of the Community Board 1 Tribeca Committee. “There is no other location being considered.” She made the following claims, reading from a “fact sheet”:

• The office of court administration includes summons and arraignment, limited to minor violations (littering, cycling on the sidewalk, being inside a park after hours…) from agencies such as the Department of Education, Parks Department, Department of Buildings, and—thrown in last as if it’s nothing—the NYPD.

• This is just for people who want to pay summons. You can also pay by mail, something that 25% of people did in 2012.

• Intended hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the court usually shuts around 3 p.m. and Fridays are lighter.

• 346 Broadway has no inside waiting area, which is why people queue up outside. To avoid that, they’re creating space for up to 250 people to wait inside at 40 Worth, and opening it at 8:30 a.m.

• An average day now is around 300 people in the morning and 300 people in the afternoon, but they don’t all come at once. (But the number of 800 total was also mentioned….)

• This is “temporary”—which in city lingo means 10 years. The city is looking for a permanent location.

The committee objected for various reasons, including having been totally left out of the decision, and then Odeon owner Lynn Wagenknecht schooled the city rep. Drawing form the criminal court’s annual report, she said:

• In 2012, 280,000 summonses were handed out in Manhattan and Brooklyn (which would feed into this location). And only 9,000 paid by mail.

• More than forty city agencies—including the MTA, NYFD, and TLC—issue summonses.

• Many are repeat offenders.

• The 346 Broadway location has a “holding pen” for people also charged for more serious crimes (disorderly conduct, intoxication, reckless driving, intoxication).

• There’s a preschool on the same block, and several more with a two- or three-block radius.

The committee chair, who lives on Leonard, said you can see anywhere from 60 to 150 people waiting for the facility to open in the morning, and most are smoking.

An audience member representing Sharon from the Balloon Saloon, who couldn’t attend because she just had foot surgery, pointed out that it’s not people arriving who might be the problem—it’s people leaving. “You got 600 people walking around the neighborhood pissed” at having to pay a fine, she said. Evidently Sharon calls the pay phone near her store the “hate phone” because people leaving child support court are always on it, yelling at someone or other.

A committee member agreed that we could expect anyone having to pay a fine for “smoking a doobie” to be upset, and they might turn to crime to “get that money back.”

A resident of Thomas pointed out that the street is residential and very narrow, “and we already have Legal Aid on the block!”

The committee, realizing that Yu was not going to be of any use (“I have this fact sheet,” she said when asked to rebut Wagenknecht’s information), plotted next steps. Reps from the Manhattan Borough President’s office and Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office were there, and their involvement seems critical to putting pressure on the city. But the chair pointed out that the main tenant in 40 Worth is the Gap, which may very well not want to share space with a criminal court facility, and the committee intends to reach out to the company (especially if, as posited, the city has yet to sign a lease—although there seemed to be conjecture that no new lease may be necessary if the city is simply using space it already has in the building).

A resolution will be drafted strongly opposing the move, chastising the city for trying to sneak it through, and requesting that any decision be delayed until further locations can be investigated. Vote: 11-0.

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  1. Ha! Tribeca will finally get to experience Occupy Wall Streeters camping on their streets!

  2. @FiDiGuy: I’m no fan of Occupy Wall Street, but they’re not exactly the same thing as criminals….


  4. @Smithers: Oh, they were definitely mentioned! In the context of “Do we want a lot of unsavory types in the area with so many kids in the around?”

  5. “Do we want a lot more unsavory types in the area when we’re already overflowing with so many unsavory children in the area?”

  6. @Erik – no criminal element? Rapes and assaults aren’t crimes? While a criminal court, this is specifically for non-violent crimes – most occupy arrests fall under this category, so have fun with that!

  7. “The committee, realizing that Yu was not going to be of any use (“I have this fact sheet,” she said when asked to rebut Wagenknecht’s information)”

    Of course, Pauline Yu is not going to be of any use, or will ever be of any use.

    Facts: She is the daughter of Justin Yu, former head of Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, which supported Bloomberg and Margaret Chin.
    Yu’s appointment is pure nepotism, a political favor to Margaret Chin – does anyone really believe that Yu is the most qualified of all the applicants for this job?

    Such is what we are to expect from four more years of Chin: cronyism, pay-for-play-politics, nepotism, favoritism, and lack of concern for the community.

    Meanwhile, when the Tombs was to expand in Chinatown a few years back, Chin led the charge to keep it away from her base = racial politics at its worst.

  8. The fact that (a) Margaret Chin is Chinese, (b) Chinatown happens to be part of her district and (c) the location of the Tombs is in Chinatown, and (gasp) another Chinese person, Pauline Yu, happens to be a Mayor’s office representative = racial politics?!

    “One hand” before you wash your other hand, why don’t you tell everyone they both look the same too.

  9. Dear Kacee: There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    Yes, when Chin doesn’t want jail expansion in Chinatown but when she and her reps at the meeting say nothing when it is coming into TriBeCa; when the person who announced it “is not of any use”, according to the news article, but rather is a political favor to the daughter of the head of Chinatown’s largest and oldest organziation, the CCBA, yes that is racial politics at its worst.

    If you don’t think racial politics plays a large role in Chinatown, explain why John Liu got only 7% citywide but won overwhelmingly in Chinatown.

    In fact, according to Council Watch: “One could look at the growing Chinese-American electorate and say that they are still at a stage of political immaturity regarding ethnic voting patterns. It certainly appears that the Chinese vote in this election cut sharply along those lines.”

    Again, Kacee, there are none so blind as those who will not see. Open your eyes to reality!

  10. Placing the Criminal Summons Court at 71 Thomas places an unfair burden on an area finally finding its equilibrium after many challenging starts and stops. This decision will diminish the progress we have made. This is our home, our schools, our place of work. It is not a suitable location for a court of this nature, dealing with thousands of transient individuals every week.
    It is imperative we show our objections. Please email your neighbors, fellow business people and employees to attend the CB1 meeting. Put it in your calendar now! Bring friends, children we need a critical mass! WE NEED YOUR ATTENDANCE. Please make it a priority. Thank you in advance!
    Community Board One meeting on Oct. 22nd, 6pm, 150 Greenwich St.

  11. Bring your children! Please bring your children!!! Use YOUR children like Congress uses whatever is handy and close by to make their idiotic and baseless point. Don’t worry if you’re exploiting your children….just please, please bring your children….but no ugly children, just the cute and adorable children. Side note – any parent who brings their child to this meeting is a complete f**king idiot – a tea party-esque, hypocritical SUPER f**king idiot. That being said, I am still bringing my daughter.