A group of Brooklyn judges is preparing to sue the city to preserve its parking privileges in a park next to Borough Hall, claiming that the removal of 20 or so spaces will endanger the judges’ safety because the nearest garage is two blocks away.
The parking lot, at the corner of Joralemon and Adams streets, is within Columbus Park. The judges also park their cars on a public walkway next to the lot, but the Parks Department now says that the judges will lose those spaces this spring.
The 20 or so judges who park their vehicles in that section of the park would have to journey two blocks to an underground garage at 330 Jay St. The judges and their supporters claim that’s a security risk.
“You can characterize this as a number of judges whining about privileges, or you can take a step back, recall the kind of world we live in now, and consider the kind of danger they’re being asked to endure,” said Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie).
As an example, Fidler citied some racist graffiti that was scrawled on a courthouse elevator in January. Even though the graffiti would have been painted on the wall whether Judge Diana Johnson parked in the underground lot or in Columbus Park, Fidler was undeterred.
“Someone walked out of [Judge Diana Johnson’s] courtroom angry enough to scrawl hate graffiti,” said Fidler. “What if someone was a little more deranged than that and was waiting outside of the courthouse for her? This is a legitimate security question. This is not about perks.”
Judge Herbert Kramer, the Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge leading the effort, did not respond to two requests for comment.
Local park activists said the real issue was the public trust.
“This is mapped as parkland, and should be used as such,” said Judy Stanton, the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “It shouldn’t have cars in it.”
Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, ruled favorably on Stanton’s motion.
“This is a total farce,” added Norvell. “It’s insulting, but it is also comical. How petty can somebody get to not only refuse to park in a parking lot for free two blocks away, but to demand that Brooklynites give up their parkland so that they can park at the front door of the courthouse?”
As Norvell spoke, other members of his group were putting the finishing touches on a mock protest planned for Thursday morning, complete with pro-park picketers in fake judicial robes carrying signs like, “Parks R 4 Parking.”
A spokesman for the courthouse declined to weigh in on the judges’ use of the judicial system to maintain their parking privileges.
“They have a right to litigate,” said the spokesman, David Bookstaver.
But Phil Abramson, a spokesman for the Parks Department, said the city was hoping to reach a consensus with the judges outside of the courtroom.
“We’re looking to meet with all interested parties,” said Abramson. “They really shouldn’t have been parking there.”