Pedestrians Shoved Aside as Brooklyn Judges Cling to Plaza Parking
Court personnel have again appropriated downtown Brooklyn parkland for their own private cars.
The saga of the Brooklyn judges who just can’t stand to part with their parking spots inside Columbus Park turned into a case of whack-a-mole last week. First, the judges finally agreed to stop parking in a pedestrian walkway, backing down from threats to sue the city in order to preserve that privilege. Under the compromise, however, a much bigger swath of the park has been turned over to the judges’ parked vehicles, a supposedly temporary giveback while a new permanent configuration is implemented.
Many pedestrians appeared to assume that the blockaded park was just a
one-day disruption, due, perhaps to a water main break or a bomb scare.
When the actual purpose was explained to one man, however, he was
incredulous: "No, you’re joking, right?" he said.
"I’m really pissed off," said a woman who works at City Tech (New York
City College of Technology) on Jay Street. "I don’t think that they
should take the park. I hope it’s temporary — and I hope they
The Parks Department approved the new arrangement despite the fact that court personnel already have access to a courthouse garage at 330 Jay Street and 150 placards for free use of on-street spots. "They have all these spots on the street, they can go to 330 Jay, and they’re just taking advantage," says Irene Janner of the Brooklyn Heights Association. "We’re not happy with their decision to just come in and take up half the park."
Administrative Judge Abraham Gerges says the blockade will last one or
two months. But prior "temporary" measures have left pedestrians out in
the cold for far longer. In fact, judges were first allowed to store
cars in the Columbus Park pedestrian walkway while the city constructed the courthouse at 330 Jay Street — including a garage for court
employees — in 1999. When the garage was completed, some court personnel refused to use it and insisted on keeping their newly acquired parking perk.
"We have very little confidence in their willingness to uphold this
arrangement," says Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives. "They’ve broken faith before
with the community."
Norvell criticized the Parks Department for acceding to the judges’ demands. "Their job isn’t to find parking spaces," he said. "It’s inconceivable that at every turn, the convenient parking of the judiciary takes precedence over public space."