MANHATTAN COURTHOUSES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The New York County Courthouses located in downtown Manhattan serve what is perhaps the largest and most diverse population in the world. Courthouses, plural, because the Manhattan Courthouses sprawl across lower Manhattan and have additional Courthouses in Midtown and in Harlem. By my count there are 10 distinct buildings that house the Supreme Court of the State of New York both Civil and Criminal Terms (the Criminal Term is where the most serious indicted criminal cases are handled), the Family Court, the New York City Criminal Court (which handles misdemeanors, violations and unindicted felonies), Surrogate Court, Civil Court of the City of New York which includes Housing Court and Small Claims Court.
As a former New York County Assistant District Attorney, I spent more time in the lower Manhattan, where most Courts are located, than I care to admit. I especially remember the nights, weekends and of course the long days and the numerous restaurants surrounding the Courthouses in the Chinatown, Little Italy, and Tribeca areas of Manhattan. It is not a stretch to say that I have handled over a thousand criminal cases in New York County both as a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney including cases ranging from homicide to DWI, from Robbery to Drugs and from Assault to simple criminal summons such as Theft of Services or violations. I often affectionately refer to the Manhattan Courts as “my home away from home.”
In addition, the Special Narcotics Prosecutor is located in 80 Centre Street, where my old office was located. The Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office and the Special Narcotics Courts located in Manhattan, gives local prosecutors who generally only have borough wide jurisdiction the power to investigate and prosecute Narcotics and related offenses committed anywhere in New York City. As a result, Narcotics (or Drug) cases are often prosecuted in Manhattan even if they are committed in another borough such as the Bronx or Brooklyn.
With a population of more than 1.5 million people and a population density of 66,940 people per square mile, the Manhattan Courts serve a lot of residents. In addition, over 43 million visitors come to New York City every year with the lion share coming to Manhattan and numerous suburban residents commute into Manhattan daily causing the weekday population to swell. This means that in Manhattan Criminal Court, defendants, victims and witnesses literally come from around New York State, the Country and the world. In addition, because Manhattan and more particularly the Wall Street area is the financial hub of the world, international banking cases, are handled alongside of garden variety street crime such as robbery or burglary. In fact, the cases being handled in New York County are as diverse as the neighborhoods that make-up Manhattan. Greenwich Village, Harlem, Upper East Side, West Side, Hell’s Kitchen, Washington Heights, Wall Street and Soho, to name a few, are so different that it is sometimes difficult to believe that they constitute one borough in one city.
More than 100,000 arrests take place every year in New York County or Manhattan as it is more commonly known. As a result, almost 275 new cases come into the Manhattan Criminal Court everyday of the year. As a result, long lines at entrances and at elevators are the norm in many Manhattan Courthouses especially during peak morning times between 9 and 10 am and all of the Courthouses are well utilized. Court Calendars of over 100 cases per day are not unusual in certain Criminal Court Parts and the Courts can have full days sometimes working well beyond the normal 5 pm close.