Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: May 17, 2001

Seal of the Unified Court System
Innovative Harlem Court Makes Justice a Community Project 

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: 

  • 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. 
"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 that
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.