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Judge for yourself — Abe speaks

The Brooklyn Paper

Nobody likes a bad review.

So when former City Councilman Abe Gerges — now the newly minted administrative judge at the state Supreme Court on Adams Street — read our recent editorial slamming judges for parking on a walkway in Columbus Park, he did what any former show-business performer would have done.

The Borscht Belt singer once known as George Garson dialed me up and asked for a meeting.

Twenty minutes later, I was in the big man’s still-bare office, debating whether judges should be parking in a city park.

It’s a debate that, objectively speaking, I won.

First, some background: Judges have been parking in that cement lot for decades, long before the park was spruced up and the plaza around Borough Hall transformed into a genuine gathering place.

Brooklyn Heights residents have been complaining for years about the four-dozen cars parked within Columbus Park — and the dozen or so that are left on a newly renovated walkway between the parking lot and Borough Hall.

After the Parks Department moved to evict the judges from the walkway, a few of them threatened a lawsuit.

The subsequent press coverage in this newspaper (“Judges fighting for free parking”) and the New York Daily News (“These judges bemoan their lot”) presented the judges in the kind of light typically reserved for governors who get caught with prostitutes.

So Gerges, who was still in his first week on the job, mind you, started a charm offensive, paying an impromptu visit to the Daily News’s Court Street bureau, arranging a hasty meeting with the Brooklyn Heights Association, and even reaching out to Transportation Alternatives, which had held a protest featuring fake “judges” in robes holding signs like “Parks R 4 Parking.”

And, naturally, he called this reporter-editor- non-park parker. Throughout our debate, Gerges refused to back down from his central point: That judges need parking right next to the courthouse because they are a target for violence.

“I was mugged and beaten up when I was a judge,” he said. “I’ve had trials where witnesses were killed. That’s the work we do. If you work the matrimonial part, one side feels like you destroyed their life. It’s not like you, writing an editorial or a column — we have to walk outside where someone could be waiting.”

With all due respect, we print our office address in the paper (and my home address is in that quaint old phone book), so it wouldn’t be hard for an aggrieved party to find me.

Gerges also made the now-obligatory 9-11 argument — namely that the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 showed that America, and, apparently, its hard-working judges, can come under attack at any time.

I have nothing but respect for Abe Gerges, but I batted his arguments aside like I was David Wright on Opening Day (did you see that game!):

a) If judges don’t want to live in fear of being attacked, they have a very easy way to avoid violence: Don’t run for the office in the first place.

b) Parking 50 feet from one’s car hardly affords a full measure of safety. Indeed, a Councilman was once murdered inside City Hall.

c) 9-11 didn’t change anything except turning what could have been a mediocre presidency into one of history’s worst.

d) Gerges himself admitted that he often walks to work. Why? “I’m not going to let anyone tell me how to live,” he said. “I have to be a part of the city.”

So instead of complaining about our stories, he should tell his judges to be “part of the city” and get out of their cars. It’s time to bring this long-running comedy to a close.

Sorry, your honor, but I just gave you another bad review.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at gkuntzman@cnglocal.com
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al pankin from boro hall says:
it's a good idea to allow the judges to park their cars there, the city parks dept would probably allow illegal street vendors to start some type of peddeling operation there once they were gone. why doesn't the city evict the food vendor who parks his van on the sidewalk in front of the supreme court?, there are plenty of tax paying resturants for the public to go to. why is the food vendor allowed to put his trash in black plactic bags next to the city parks dept waste baskets that the parks dept garbage truck picks up? they get free garbage pick up daily and no rent, my tennants pay thousands to pick up the garbage. this is a real issue, not the judges parking.
April 4, 2008, 9:08 am
William Harris from Boerum Hill says:
Abe Gerges is a wonderful person and judge, but here he is wrong. The arrogance of public servants claiming this park--small though it is-offends everyone. Brooklyn Civic Center needs every inch of open space, not this ugly little cancer. Have they no shame? And using the excuse of personal security is so limp it will not stand close-up analysis. If a sniper wanted to pick off a judge, it would be far easier to do so arriving or leaving the "park" rather than sorting through throngs of people entering the courts. Here Abe Gerges is right on the money... Pick walking (or biking). I mean, how many judges are murdered commuting to work?
April 4, 2008, 7:55 pm

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