A ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of construction for the Red Hook Community Justice Center-a multifaceted community court that will be the first of its kind in the nation-was held today with Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, and other federal, state and local dignitaries. The product of a unique joint venture between the U.S. Department of Justice, the City of New York, and the Unified Court System, the Red Hook Community Justice Center will integrate under one roof the Family, Housing and Criminal Courts with drug treatment and other services in an effort to solve neighborhood problems and improve the quality of life for residents.
Chief Judge Kaye said, "Today's ground-breaking ceremony symbolizes the significance of the Red Hook Community Justice Center on both a national and local scale-it breaks new ground in the area of innovative justice solutions and will serve as a model for a new generation of community courts. New York is once again leading the country in creatively and pragmatically addressing some of society's most pressing problems: drug abuse, juvenile delinquency and domestic violence. The Red Hook Community Justice Center is the product of an exciting alliance between many individuals and organizations at the federal, State and City levels and the community of Red Hook itself. The result of this expansive partnership will be a unique model of community justice that is sure to be emulated across the nation."
"Today's ceremony signals the start of a new partnership between the people of Red Hook and the Unified Court System," said Mayor Giuliani. "The Red Hook Community Justice Center will offer new and innovative solutions to persistent social problems, by localizing Family, Housing andCriminal Courts and linking them to community resources. Defendants will not only be sentenced to perform community service in Red Hook, but will also be linked to neighborhood-based drug treatment and job training programs. The people of Red Hook will benefit tremendously from this new center, and hopefully we can get individuals, especially juveniles, the help they need so they don't wind up back in court. The Community Justice Center is proof once again that New York City is a national leader in law enforcement and criminal justice solutions."
The Red Hook Community Justice Center will build on and expand even further the successful model of the award-winning Midtown Community Court in Manhattan, a nationally recognized court that focuses on community restitution and constructive sentencing for defendants in low-level crimes. Key features of the Red Hook Justice Center will include:
A Multi-Jurisdictional Court: The Justice Center's caseload will consist primarily of low-level criminal cases, but it will also handle Family Court and Civil Court matters, including landlord-tenant disputes and juvenile delinquency cases.
Community Restitution: Offenders pay back the neighborhood through community service sentences, including painting over graffiti, planting trees, maintaining local parks and stuffing envelopes for non-profits.
Help for Entire Community: Social services, like drug treatment, domestic violence counseling, job training, mediation services, health care and mentoring, will be available under one roof to all those touched by crime in Red Hook-victims, their relatives, community members and defendants.
Aggressive Approaches to Neighborhood Problems: The Center will house several programs aimed at addressing neighborhood problems, including the Red Hook Public Safety Corps-an AmeriCorps community service program that has put 50 local residents to work replacing broken windows, reaching out to crime victims and teaching young people how to resolve conflicts without violence-and the Red Hook Youth Court, which uses peer pressure to fight crime by having young people act as judges, jurors and attorneys in hearing actual low-level cases involving other teens.
State-of-the-Art Technology: Computers will help track compliance and give judges the information they need to make informed decisions. The Center will also test video technology for use in remote arraignments and other proceedings.
Funding for the Justice Center has been secured through a combination of federal, State and City sources, as well as private foundations. The U.S. Department of Justice has provided $1.4 million for design and planning. Renovation, which will be underwritten by the City of New York, is estimated to cost $4.8 million. The Center will be built on the site of a former parochial school at 94 Visitation Place in Red Hook, with the renovation expected to last a year.
The creation of the Justice Center is being spearheaded by the Center for Court Innovation, the research and development arm of state court system.