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Boro’s new Family Court opens on Jamaica Avenue

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Queens got its first new Family Court building in more than 30 years Tuesday, trading a dark, cramped converted library branch for a four-story structure with modern courtrooms, spacious waiting rooms and lots of light.

The new Queens Family Court building at 151-20 Jamaica Ave. opened for business last week, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Borough President Helen Marshall were on hand to officially cut the ribbon at a Tuesday ceremony.

“Today, with the opening of this shining new state-of-the-art justice complex, residents and the legal community of Queens will have at last an appropriate setting within which to conduct the important business of court,” Kaye said.

For the past 30 years, the Family Court has been located at 89-14 Parsons Boulevard in a Queens Public Library building, which was converted for temporary use as a courthouse.

“Unfortunat­ely, for too long families with cases in Queens Family Court have been subjected to anything but dignified surroundings — they have had to contend with the overcrowded and dilapidated conditions of a building that was never meant to be used as a courthouse, but was originally built as a public library,” Kaye said.

The library system had planned to reclaim its former home but has decided to relinquish its claim to that building, said library spokeswoman Joanne King. No additional information was available about the use of the building or the library’s decision not to take back the building.

The new court building was designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, led by Ian Bader, and incorporates soothing materials, such as light-colored bricks, and floor-to-ceiling glass panels in the waiting areas, providing both abundant natural light and views of Rufus King Park to the north and down to Kennedy Airport to the south.

Both the light and the increased waiting space are big improvements, Marshall said.

“I’ve been to the old Family Court. It was horrible. People were lined up around the corner and out the door,” she said. “With these new waiting rooms, it means that people won’t be standing around.”

The judicial feel of the new building begins outside, where granite plaques inscribed with quotes from Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice, line the Jamaica Avenue facade.

The building also houses at least 15 city and state agencies to make the Family Court process easier for the Queens residents who come through there.

“These are the keys to making the system work more efficiently,” Bloomberg said. “This building will be more than just bricks and mortar.”

Bloomberg also announced the formation of specialized probation violation courts that will only handle cases of felons who violate their parole. A court will be opened in each borough, and the State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens is slated as the Queens location, starting within the next few weeks, Bloomberg said.

The new courts will focus on probation violations in order to get the felons off the streets and issue strict and speedy sentences, Bloomberg said.

“Our administra­tion’s approach to fighting crime puts emphasis on problem people and problem places,” he said. “Probation violators are problem people. By putting these offenders in one place and focusing our resources where they achieve the most good, we can monitor them more closely, we can eliminate unnecessary delays in dealing with their transgressions, and we can send these offenders a very clear message that their actions — and inactions — have consequences.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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