Over budget and delayed, the new Bronx courthouse.
New Bronx Courthouse Finally Scheduled To Open!
After many delays and cost overruns of nearly $100 million, the state’s newest courthouse, the Bronx County Hall of Justice, is scheduled to open next week, officials said on Thursday.
Cases will be heard on Monday at the $421 million courthouse, in the South Bronx near the borough’s other large courthouses, said Ronald Younkins, chief of operations for the Office of Court Administration.
Construction began in 2001 on the nine-story, 775,000-square-foot building that stretches for two blocks along 161st Street.
It was to be completed in 2005 at a cost of $325 million. But delays occurred because of a variety of problems, including soil contaminated with petroleum and the disqualification of the original contractor because of suspicions of mob ties.
The 200-space underground garage, which was declared unsafe after inspectors found that its ceiling had bowed, will not open along with the rest of the courthouse, officials said. It was unclear when it would be repaired, but engineers have determined that the garage problems are not a threat to the building’s overall structural safety.
The building’s jury rooms are also said to be too small to house jurors comfortably, but Mr. Younkins said a panel of the court’s judges is investigating the problem and that it will not further postpone the opening.
Mr. Younkins said that the most recent delay had resulted from a faulty air-conditioning system responsible for cooling courtroom computers. That problem has been fixed, he said.
The building is expected to relieve overcrowding in the Bronx County Courthouse, at 161st Street and the Grand Concourse, and the Bronx Family/Criminal Courthouse, a few blocks east on 161st Street.
The new courthouse, designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, has a translucent glass and aluminum facade, courtrooms equipped with video monitors to allow defendants to watch their trials from jail cells if necessary, and a design that allows sunlight to reach each of its 47 large courtrooms.
The building’s exterior glass wall subtly changes color as it rises from street level in two different patterns. At street level, the windows are opaque for privacy and security, but they become clearer at the top.
The glass was tested at a blast simulator at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to ensure it could absorb the shock waves of a bomb blast.
Tags: 161st Street, Bronx County Courthouse, Bronx County Hall, Bronx Family/Criminal Courthouse, Bronx Neighborhood News, Bronx News, Grand Concourse, new bronx courthouse, Office of Court Administration, Politics, Rafael Viñoly Architects, Ronald Younkins
NEW YORK, NY January 28, 2008 —After two years of delays, the long awaited new Bronx criminal court house will open its doors today. WNYC's Elaine Rivera reports.
REPORTER: The glass-encased building - named the Bronx County Hall of Justice - spans two city blocks on 161st street. The opening comes after numerous problems that included a faulty ventilation system, a buckling garage floor and the cancellation of the initial bid with a contractor who reportedly had mob ties.
Ronald Younkins, a city court administration official, says opening the new court house is critical because of overcrowding at the county's family and civil courts.
YOUNKINS: The criminal parts which are now in two of the other courthouses will move into the single building freeing up space for the remaining courts the remaining courts have become overcrowded overtime.
REPORTER: The 775,000 square foot, state-of-the-art building's final price tag is $421 million - one million more than originally estimated. For WNYC, I'm Elaine Rivera.
A few years past its original completion date and almost $100 million over budget, the Bronx County Hall of Justice – one of the largest courthouses ever built in the U.S. – finally opened Monday.
"It's been a long time coming, it was a very big and complex project, and it took a long time," said Office of Court Administration chief of operations Ron Younkins.
With its 47 courtrooms and seven grand jury rooms, the Bronx District Attorney says the new courthouse will greatly help move cases along much quicker.
"What we've seen is that the cell capacity in there is limited and because of that, the Police Department has to farm out people to precincts while they're waiting arraignment. Then they have to get the proper people back to match the cases that are ready. And that's caused us great difficulty in meeting the 24-hour goal in terms of arrest to arraignment,” said Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.
Originally budgeted for $325 million, it ended up costing $421 million.
The delays and cost of the courthouse have given it a bad reputation. But how do those who live and work in the area feel about their neighborhood's new glass and aluminum building?
"I don't like it; I think it's ugly," said one person.Quote: "It's OK, it's nice, I like it," added another.Quote: "It's the ugliest piece of work," added a third.Quote: "It looks very nice," added a fourth. "I'm supposed to be in the other building, but I look forward to having cases here and seeing what the building is all about."
"One of the levels of the garage is buckling a bit," said Younkins. "This is being addressed by the state dormitory authority, which is building this building on behalf of the city.