justice

Evictions and Trials Halted While Courts Defend Against Coronavirus

Midtown Community Court on West 54th Street
Midtown Community Court on West 54th Street Photo: Gabriel Sandoval/THE CITY

Sign up for “THE CITY Scoop,” our daily newsletter where we send you stories like this first thing in the morning.

New civil and criminal jury trials will be delayed and eviction cases will be suspended for a week in a bid to combat coronavirus spread, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks announced Friday.

Meanwhile, officials are eying two community courthouses as NYPD holding centers for arrested people suspected of having COVID-19 illness, THE CITY has learned.

Hours after Marks’ memo to all court personnel, the city’s top real estate group announced its members will voluntarily stop all eviction warrants for the next 90 days.

“In crisis, New Yorkers pull together,” said William Rudin, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, whose members own and manage more than 150,000 rental apartments in the city.

“Now is a time for everyone to do their share,” he added.

Marks and Rudin’s declarations came after THE CITY reported that advocates were pressing the Cuomo administration to immediately suspend all evictions.

Miami, San Jose and some other cities have ordered a halt to executing warrants of eviction, responding to the pandemic.

Arrest Holding Centers

Meanwhile, the Office of Court Administration plans to close its two community courthouses next Friday, according to Denis Quirk, president of the Court Officers’ Association.

The NYPD will use the buildings to house arrested people who may have coronavirus, said Quirk, who was briefed on the plan.

The courts, located in Hell’s Kitchen and Red Hook, handle quality of life cases.

Court staff from both locations will be moved to the main criminal courts in their boroughs, Quirk said.

“We are taking a deliberate, measured approach to an unprecedented situation,” said OCA spokesperson Lucian Chalfen. “We are closely monitoring what both municipal government and health authorities recommend and continue to make changes as this situation continues to evolve.”

A NYPD representative declined to comment.

Infections Reach Courts

The state court system has already had direct contact with people with coronavirus.

A section of Manhattan Family Court was temporarily shut on Thursday after a legal intern assigned to the area was diagnosed with COVID-19. A Vera Institute of Justice employee who worked at Brooklyn Supreme Court tested positive for the virus Thursday night, according to the Daily News.

Court officials said they deep-cleaned the areas.

All courthouses have so far remained open despite concerns expressed by court officers and lawyers, who worry that people travelling in and out of the busy buildings will spread the virus.

Quirk is among those who contend the entire court system should be immediately shut down, aside for setting aside space to handle new arrests.

“They closed Broadway and other large gatherings. Why are we still open?” he asked. “We have thousands of people who come to court every day.”

Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.

SUPPORT THE CITY

You just finished reading another story from THE CITY.

We need your help to make THE CITY all it can be.

Please consider joining us as a member today.

DONATE TODAY!