Criminal Court Facilities Management in 1909

David Badertscher
One hundred years ago last Tuesday (November 3, 1909) the criminal court building in Manhattan (bounded by Centre, Lafayette, Franklin, and White Streets) was declared unsafe for human occupancy and everyone in the building at the time was ordered to leave immediately.

According to a New York Times article Written the following day, “when the last man was out a squad of thirty policemen under Inspector Daley and Captain Galvin took charge of the building, roping it off on all sides and remaining on guard outside the building to forbid anyone to enter or even pass through any of the flanking streets”.

Courts housed in the building at the time included the Criminal Branch of the Supreme Court, the various parts of General Sessions, the Court of Special Sessions, the Coroner’s Court, the Tombs Court, and the District Attorney of New York County offices.

Judge Mulqueen of General Sessions said the condemming of the building had been expected. By 1906 the building had been settling, cracks were appearing in the walls, plaster fell, and many doors and windows were out of plumb.

According to the New York Times article, Judge Mulqueen also remarked that for months before the condemnation “…the holding of court in any of the rooms of the building was a nerve testing feat”. He declared that when a subway train passed through Layfayette street the vibration in the building “caused the chair in which he sat hearing cases to tremble under him.”

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