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Manhattan District Attorney Opens Washington Heights Office

 District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. kept a 2009 campaing promise to open an Uptown office.
District Attorney Opens Washington Heights Office
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Manhattan District Attorney unveiled a new Uptown office Wednesday that will tackle issues like immigrant affairs and domestic violence, marking the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by the DA years ago.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. was on hand to unveil the new office located in the Alianza Dominicana building at 530 W. 166th St.  The satellite branch will offer services related to immigrant affairs, domestic violence and witness support in both Spanish and English.

Vance’s promise to open a Northern Manhattan office grew out of a conversation with Democratic district leader and Community Board 12 member Maria Luna during his 2009 campaign, he said.

“It was pretty clear to me that this is a community that has a long way to travel if it has to come down to the courts Downtown,” Vance explained. “It is a community that also has some specific challenges like immigration fraud issues. I think we also need a presence up here to deal with complaints regarding domestic violence.”

The Washington Heights branch will be under the direction of Joselinne Minaya, a longtime staff member of the DA’s office who previously worked in the community affairs unit. The unit is responsible for conducting community outreach and youth education programs, the district attorney’s office said.

Members of the DA's immigrant affairs, domestic violence, witness aid services and community partnership units will staff the Uptown office on a rotating basis each week. Services will include investigating domestic violence cases, receiving complaints about employment and housing scams that target the immigrant community, and connecting crime victims and witnesses to vital social services.

Vance encouraged all residents to seek help if they need it.

“Regardless of where you come from, what language you speak or your immigration status, you are welcome here,” he said.

DA spokeswoman Emily Tuttle said the goal of opening the Uptown office is to build a strong link between the district attorney and residents of Northern Manhattan.

“People think of the courts as very Lower Manhattan,” she said. “It’s important that we don’t feel so far removed from the people we serve.”

Vance received some criticism in 2013 when the Daily News reported that he still had not located a site or secured funding for the new office, despite naming it as one of his priorities when he took office in 2010. The process was prolonged by budget cuts related to the recession, Vance reportedly said at the time.

On Wednesday, he was ready to put the past behind him and look toward the future.

“It’s taken us a long time,” he said., “but I’m delighted that we’re here.”