Legal Battle Comes to FiDi Over Planned Probation Office Move

The relocation of a probation office to 66 John, above, "will only make people afraid to visit the area," according to the opponents' court papers. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 30, 2013

A probation office will not be moving to John Street if a group from the Financial District has its way.

Coming on the heels of the successful effort by Tribeca opponents to block the move of a summons court to Thomas Street, Century 21 department store, Pace University and some nearby residents are suing the city to stop its relocation of the probation office to 66 John St.

Both proposed moves stemmed from the city’s sale of 346 Broadway, at Leonard Street, and the relocation of many of its offices in the building.

In court papers filed on Dec. 26, the opponents claim the city sidestepped re­quired environmental and land use procedures in what they call a “stealth attack on the community.” The plan’s opponents are requesting a temporary re­straining order to halt the probation office move, which they say is scheduled to happen early in the new year.

A court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 9:30 a.m. at 60 Centre Street (Room 331).

At a Community Board 1 meeting in November, city officials had estimated that, on average, 40 “low-risk” offenders would appear daily at the probation office. The most common offenses, they said, are theft and larceny, drug-related charges and driving while intoxicated.

Century 21 maintains that the presence of the office will drive away customers; Pace University asserts that its 1,900 students living within three blocks of the office will be endangered; and the condominium board of 59 John Street, across the street, is suing out of concern about parking, congestion and crime.

Because that building shares the same street number with 59 Maiden Lane, an­other entrance to 66 John, many people confuse the two, according to the suit. The condo board worries that a convicted criminal sent to 66 John Street may enter its building. “When this happens with ordinary people, it is an annoyance; but if this should happen with convicted criminals, it could be far worse,” the suit states.

Another plaintiff in the suit, Patrick Kennell of 88 John, said he fears for the safety of his 3-year-old son, whom he walks past 66 John on the way to Down­town Little School on Dutch Street.

Responding to the lawsuit, city attorney Haley Stein said in a statement that the city was still reviewing the claims.

At the CB1 hearing in November, Ryan Dodge, the Probation Department’s communications director, tried to allay residents’ fears.

“The vast majority of probation cli­ents are everyday New Yorkers working to overcome their past mistakes,” he said. “We’re committed to hel­ping them do so, but our first priority is safety.”