Tribecans Win Fight Against Summons Court Move to Thomas Street

A civil court now occupies 71 Thomas Street, where the city has scrapped plans to move the Summons Arraignment Part from 346 Broadway, three blocks away. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 11, 2013

The city withdrew its hotly contested proposal last month to move a criminal summons court to 71 Thomas Street. The agreement was reached between the city and a group of Tribeca residents and business owners who had sued the city.

According to the city, about 500 people visit the Summons Arraignment Part daily at 346 Broadway. The move was part of the city’s plan to sell two buildings and relocate many of its of­fices.

The court handles tickets for a gamut of offenses, from public urination to bi­cycle riding on sidewalks to, most frequently, public consumption of alcohol. Neighbors feared what they be­lieved would be a severe impact on the area.

Among their claims in the lawsuit, the opponents said the city had transacted to sell 346 Broadway—to be developed as a hotel and condominium complex—without going through a required review process. A hearing on that part of the suit had been scheduled for the day after the agreement was reached.

Richard Emery, the lawyer representing the opponents, said in an interview that the potential loss of that $160 million sale “was obviously instrumental” in the city’s decision to withdraw its plan.

“The potential for delay in their closing could have scuttled the financing and scuttled the deal that was in the offing before the new administration took over,” Emery said, “and of course everyone was counting on that money.”

Emery said the opponents were willing to withdraw their objection to the sale as part of the deal to keep the summons court out of 71 Thomas Street. “Seventy-one Thomas was the paramount concern. It was the tail on the dog and all we cared about was the tail.”

Chris Roe, senior counsel in the city’s Law Department, declined to comment on the city’s reasons for withdrawing the plan. “We are completing plans to move it to another site and will announce it at a later date,” Roe said in a statement.

Lynn Wagenknecht, whose Odeon rest­­aurant is across the street from 71 Thom­as, said she was “tremendously relieved” by the agreement. “We hope to continue to have neighbors, retail and otherwise, that are suitable for a residential neighborhood,” she said.

Neighbors of 71 Thomas Street gathered more than 1,500 online signatures opposing the move and raised thousands of dollars. They had already succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order that had kept the city from proceeding with the sale at least until Jan. 15.