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Probation Office's Planned Move to John Street Infuriates Residents

By Irene Plagianos | October 28, 2013 12:34pm | Updated on October 28, 2013 3:18pm
  FiDi residents are up in arms about a plan to move a probation office to 66 John St.
Probation Office Moves to John Street
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FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The city wants to move a Department of Probation office — which is responsible for monitoring convicted criminals — from Broadway in TriBeCa to a side street in the Financial District, a plan that's infuriated locals and even raised the eyebrows of the 1st Precinct's commanding officer.

The new office at 66 John St., which sits across the street from the Downtown Little School and near several residential buildings, will contain kiosks where convicts who are sentenced to probation instead of prison time must regularly check in as part of their court-ordered supervision. The office's clients will not include sex offenders, a Department of Probation spokesman said, but they will include men and women convicted of misdemeanors and felonies.

“The move just doesn’t seem to make any sense,” said Patrick Kennell, who lives nearby and sends his son to Downtown Little School. “They’re saying these are criminals, and yet the city is moving them to a narrow, residential block, with a preschool, with a Pace University dorm down the street.”

Kennell started a petition last week aiming to derail the plans, and as of Monday morning it already had more than 300 signatures.

Concerned residents also packed a 1st Precinct Community Council meeting last Thursday and questioned Capt. Brendan Timoney on the probation office's potential impact on neighborhood crime.

"I can tell you I'd rather not have it in the community," Timoney said of the John Street probation office as well as a summons court that is slated to move to 40 Worth Street and has also sparked local opposition. "But I don't know what their reasoning is for moving it."

Residents first learned of the plans at a Community Board 1 meeting last week, when Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway pitched the probation office's move from the recently sold city building at 346 Broadway in TriBeCa to the Financial District as a "significant improvement in the [TriBeCa] community."

Holloway told TriBeCa residents that they were better with the summons court than they were with the probation court, which he revealed was moving into the Financial District, to the surprise of those in the audience who live there.

He described the probation office as a place "where people with actual criminal records go every day and meet with their case managers" and said the office has "functions very closely connected with criminal activity."

Financial District residents were furious at the idea of the office being foisted on their neighborhood, and one called the news “the bomb Holloway dropped.”

However, city officials said public hearings on the proposal were held in April and June, with notices posted in the City Record.

The city signed a lease to place the probation office at 66 John St. earlier this year and will move in early 2014, according to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the Department of Probation.

The John Street space "was chosen as the optimal available location to meet [the Department of Probation's] specifications, particularly since the landlord agreed to create a separate entrance for DOP clients," said Juliane Cho, a DCAS spokeswoman.

The Department of Probation supervises about 24,000 adults and 2,000 juveniles, spread across 20 offices in the city. About 200 convicts per week will visit the John Street location, which is also home to offices for the city's Department of Finance.

The John Street office will handle the Department of Probation's "lowest-risk probation clients," Ryan Dodge, a department spokesman, said in an email. The top three offenses for people in that category are drug-related crimes, grand larceny and DWIs, Dodge said.

Many of the convicts who will use the John Street location previously had more restrictive probation sentences but were placed into a less supervised track after complying with the terms of their probation, Dodge said.

The office will also handle investigations of potential probation candidates, helping the court to determine whether the convict is a good match for probation, instead of a prison sentence, Dodge said.

Community Board 1 will discuss the 66 John St. probation office at a Financial District Committee meeting on Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. in 49-51 Chambers St. A representative of the mayor's office is expected to attend, CB1 said.