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TriBeCa Residents Sue Over City's Plan to Move Summons Court to Thomas St.

By Gustavo Solis | November 15, 2013 3:55pm
  More than 1,000 people have signed a petition asking to stop the move of a summons court to 71 Thomas Street.
Residents Protest Move of TriBeCa Court
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LOWER MANHATTAN — TriBeCa residents are suing the city over a plan to move a criminal court into their backyard.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Manhattan Civil Court, contends that the city does not have the right to move a summons court to 71 Thomas St., also known as 40 Worth St., because the city did not do a public review of its impact on the community. 

Residents said the summons court — which deals with low-level crimes including littering, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession — would disrupt and endanger their quiet, narrow block. It would serve about 600 people per day who are paying or challenging fines who residents say would crowd the sidewalks. 

"This fight is really about the pedestrian traffic on the street,” said Richard Emery, the lawyer representing the residents. “You’re adding hundreds more people to a quiet, family, residential block. Six-hundred-plus people will be lining up, waiting for the doors to open, and the city has not taken into account the impact of that on this community.”

Emery said the city ought to have done an environmental review of the proposal and go through the city's uniform land use review procedure.

"We are reviewing the claims, working with the court on scheduling, and preparing a response," a spokeswoman for the city's Law Department said in a statement.

The summons court is currently located on a busier, wider block at 346 Broadway, where people waiting to get into the court regularly line up on the sidewalk. To prevent that from happening at the new location, the city will build a 250-person indoor waiting space at 71 Thomas St., Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway told residents at a Community Board 1 meeting last month.

In defending the plan, Holloway also said the court would simply involve people paying tickets for "minor infractions," as opposed to those charged with major crimes.

But residents were unconvinced, raising concerns about the impact on the community, including two preschools on the street.

As of Friday morning, more than 1,500 residents had signed a petition against the city’s plans.

The move of the summons court is part of a larger reorganization plan for Lower Manhattan’s courts that would also move a separate probation office from 346 Broadway to 66 John St. in the Financial District. That plan was also met with protests from local residents.