Attorneys call out city for unsanitary court conditions — Queens Daily Eagle

Jul 12, 2021

By Jacob Kaye

As Queens, Staten Island and Bronx courthouses resumed in-person day arraignments Monday, public defenders across New York City called out the city for what they say are “deplorable” conditions.

The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys condemned the Office of Court Administration and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for unsanitary and unhealthy conditions that they say are rife throughout city courthouses.

“As ALAA members returned to ‘in-person’ arraignments, they found that OCA and the City had not only failed to remediate the dangerous and unsanitary conditions, they had failed to take a single measure to clean or upgrade these areas from their pre-pandemic levels to meet even minimum standards of health and safety,” the union said in a statement.

The calls to clean up conditions come not only because COVID-19 remains a threat but because as proceedings resume, people who work in the buildings are seeing its conditions again with fresh eyes, attorneys say.

“We’ve always known it was bad but I think with COVID we just had the separation from that environment,” said Julie Sender, the Manhattan Criminal Defense Practice vice president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys. “We don’t have to just accept that we’re going to get sick and that we’re going to maybe bring roaches home or bring bedbugs home because we were at work and it was not cleaned.”

Sender, who mainly works out of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse building at 100 Centre St., said that nonpublic courthouse spaces, inlucing jail cells, pens and meeting rooms for defendants and their attorneys, are often unsanitary.

Surfaces are stained, ventilation systems are covered in dust and pests like insects and rodents are sometimes spotted, Sender said.

The conditions are present throughout criminal courthouses in the city, including in Queens, attorneys said.

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