HARLEM-The Harlem Community Justice Center-a multi-jurisdictional
community court that primarily focuses on juvenile justice
and landlord-tenant disputes-officially
opens today with an inauguration ceremony hosted by Chief
Judge Judith S. Kaye and New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The product of a joint venture between theUnified Court System
and the City of New York, the Harlem Community Justice Center
will consist of Housing Court, a youth-focused Family Court
and a teen-operated Youth Court, as well as house drug
testing and other essential services on site. The establishment
of the new Justice Center is the first full-scale court operation
in Harlem in 40 years and reflects the neighborhood's current
trend of revitalization.
Features of the Harlem Community Justice Center include:
"The thorny problems of neighborhoods cannot be tackled in a
courtroom alone, without the participation of the community,"
said Chief Judge Kaye. "The Harlem Community Justice Center
relies on strong partnerships forged within the community that
it serves, including local law enforcement, governmental agencies,
educational institutions, and social service providers, to more
effectively resolve conflicts involving families, youths and
neighbors. The Center's creation is a recognition of the fact
- Youth-Focused Family Court - Will handle cases involving
youths, including juvenile delinquency and persons-in-need-of-supervision
(PINS) matters. An important component will be New
York City's first Juvenile Intervention Court, which will
focus exclusively on young people who have been arrested
for non-violent drug-related offenses or who are at
risk of substance abuse to intervene before drug-abusing
behavior becomes entrenched
- Youth Court - A unique forum in which young people charged
with low-level offenses are judged by their peers, who have
been trained as judges, jurors and attorneys. Youths are
encouraged to get back on track through sentences of community
service, drug treatment, counseling, tutoring, mentoring
and internships. Compliance with sentences handed down ranks
high at 89 percent, compared with adult courts.
- Housing Court - Will address all types of disputes that
typically bring landlords and tenants to court, including
non-payment, nuisance complaints and the failure to
make necessary building repairs. Seeks more effective, speedier
dispositions and increased compliance with court orders
by making information and services available at the courthouse,
such as drug treatment, mediation, entitlement assistance,
building maintenance classes and loan assistance programs.
achieving just outcomes often requires more than simply a court
order-a whole network of support and resources from the community
must also come into play."
"The opening of the Harlem
Community Justice Center marks a new step in the resurgence
of this proud, historic community," Mayor Giuliani said. "New
York City's progress in modernizing our court system communicates
the importance and essential
dignity of the legal process. But it is not just the building
itself, but the innovative practices that will occur inside
that will help New York City maintain its status as the pre-eminent
local law enforcement community in the nation."
Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman noted, "One of
the most exciting features of the Harlem Community Justice
Center is the Juvenile Intervention Court, which takes our
successful statewide drug court program to a new level of
deterrence-one that uniquely targets young people. This court
will intervene early to steer youngsters who are abusing drugs
or who are at risk of such behavior away from a tragic course
of addiction as adults. This will have invaluable long-term
benefit for the community of
Harlem by helping troubled youths avoid further misbehavior
and become active, engaged productive citizens."
The Harlem Community Justice Center is being implemented
in stages, beginning with the Youth Court and Housing Court,
and with the Family Court component opening this summer. Acting
Supreme Court Justice Rolando T. Acosta will preside over
all Family and Housing Court matters.
The Justice Center's government partners include the New
York City Police Department, Department of Probation, Human
Resources Administration, Housing Authority, Department of
Housing Preservation and Development and Board of
Education and the New York State Department of Parole. Among
its non-profit partners are Phoenix House, Community Health
Network, Center for Employment Opportunities, the Legal Aid
Society, Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families,Union
Settlement and Boys and Girls Harbor. Funders include the
Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, New York State Division
of Criminal Justice Services, Public Welfare Foundation, Gannett
Foundation and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Harlem Community Justice Center is located in the heart
of East Harlem at 170 East 121st Street in a newly renovated
former magistrate's courthouse. Its jurisdiction covers East
and Central Harlem.
Planned in association with the Center for Court Innovation
(the research and development arm of the state court system),
the creation of the Justice Center reflects a national trend
begun in 1993 when New York's groundbreaking Midtown Community
Court was first established. Since then community courts have
sprung up in dozens of locations across the country,
including Connecticut, Oregon, Minnesota, Florida and Texas,
based on the original New York model.