1999-10-23 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Let’s Bring The Courthouse Back

Audrey Pheffer will address the Regular Democratic Club of the Rockaways, located at 104-02 Rockaway Beach boulevard, on Tuesday, October 26, 1999 at 8 p.m. Pheffer is the chair of the NYS Assembly Consumer Protection Committee. She will talk about consumer issues which directly effect you. Her presentation will alert you to current scams and how to avoid them. In addition, you will be brought up to date on issues affecting the Rockaways. Democratic candidates for Civil and Supreme Court will also be there. Come and bring a friend.

New York City is reversing its policy and attempting to bring the
neighborhood justice system nearer to the community.

Three courts are currently in the process of moving back to the
community. Six years ago the first court to go to a neighborhood was built in Manhattan. A second one is in the process of being built in Red Hook. The third court is expected to be erected in Harlem.

With this new focus on the part of the city, this is an excellent
opportunity for the courthouse in Rockaway to be revitalized and to
re-open its doors. This would bring jobs to our community and it would
also help us to improve our neighborhood. These two goals coincide with this current trend.

This movement away from the centralized courthouses in each
borough represents a change in philosophy and not just a geographical
change according to John Feinblatt, director of the Center for Court
Innovation. He claims that the new philosophy emphasizes the social
service and counseling component of the program.

New York State’s chief administrative judge, Jonathan Lippman, points to the fact that the current centralized court system often finds the defendant leaving the court with no penalty for quality of life or minor
violations. Lippman feels that the community court houses will effectuate judgments which will help the community. For example, a person could be required to perform community service by cleaning the beach or removing graffiti.

They expect that there will be one community court in each borough. Therefore, I have written to Jonathan Lippman, the states administrative judge, and requested that he place the Queens Community Court in the Rockaways at the site of our old courthouse.

The original Rockaway courthouse was constructed in two parts: a magistrates court and a civil court. The courthouse itself is not a
square building but rather has a V shape with room for parking in the rear.

I have been told that the magistrates court, which became known as the criminal court, was open in the morning in Rockaway. The civil part was only open two or three days a week. Many of the local lawyers who used the old courthouse had their offices in the building where Assemblywoman Pheffer now has her office on Rockaway Beach boulevard.

The original courthouse building in Rockaway had two nice size court
rooms. In addition to the old court house in Rockaway, there were other
Queens courthouses in Long Island City, Ridgewood and Flushing. In the late 1950's when the court houses were consolidated on Queens boulevard, the neighborhood courthouses closed.

Since the building on Beach Channel drive was originally constructed as a courthouse, it would be an ideal site for a new neighborhood courthouse.


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