Going down: court elevators a problem

by | Jun 10, 2015 | Press


PHOTO BY MICHAEL GANNON Most of the elevators at the civil courthouse on Sutphin Boulevard are not functioning properly, if at all. Lawyers and the union that represents court officers hope repairs or replacements are coming soon.

William Gladstone, a famed 19th Century British politician, once said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Gladstone likely would have had a fit with the public elevator situation in the city courthouse at 88-11 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica, which has had four of its six lifts, as he would have called them, out of commission for months, and some out of service for more than a year.

“It can take an hour to get an elevator in there,” one attorney who asked not to be identified told the Chronicle outside the courthouse last month.

Glen Greenidge of Community Board 12 told the board on May 20 that the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services is lining up the proper paperwork to finally repair the elevators.

“They need to come to us because the building is landmarked,” Greenidge said.

It can’t come soon enough for Patrick Cullen, president of the New York State Supreme Court Officers Association, the union that represents courthouse officers.

“Anything that slows down the safe operation of facilities is always on our radar,” Cullen said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“It absolutely is a safety problem,” he said.

Cullen said many factors come into play. He said first, that while court proceedings are a state matter and he and his members are state employees, the building is owned and operated by New York City.

“It’s also an old building,” he said, adding that staff and budget cuts by the state and city over the years have not helped matters.

The court handles civil rather than criminal matters. But the fact that the elevators are not used to transport accused killers and gang members does not allow Cullen’s officers to lower their guard.

Not when they deal with bitter divorces, potentially costly lawsuits and other matters where emotions run high, money and property can be at stake and people can be on edge.

“Just because ‘civil’ is in the name, that doesn’t mean what happens there can’t be a problem … If you have any kind of situation where somebody has a health problem, it’s more difficult getting help to them. Much of what happens there are matrimonial [cases]. You have a number of hearings where people’s mental hygiene is called into question. You have the potential for things to happen in civil court.”

Patrick O’Malley, the union’s first vice president, said another problem is that the down elevators affect the entire courthouse.

“Lawyers, jurors, judges and staff all have places to be in the courthouse at specific times,” O’Malley said. “If you have to wait 45 minutes for an elevator, you could miss your entire court date.”

Cullen added that as it is an older building, people who must rely on wheelchairs, scooters, canes and other devices to assist them with mobility already were at a disadvantage, even with elevators functioning fully.

The DCAS was sent an email with questions for this story, but did not respond prior to the Chronicle’s deadline.