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Long IslandCrime

Fire shuts down famed NYC courthouse for week

Manhattan's historic Criminal Court Building will be shut down for the rest of the week after a fire forced judges, lawyers, defendants and the public to evacuate the Art Deco structure early Tuesday, officials said.

Five firefighters, two court personnel and a prisoner suffered minor injuries as a result of smoke conditions caused by the fire at 100 Centre St., said a spokesman for the FDNY.

Investigators believe the fire started in what was described as a construction shed, the spokesman said. The building is home to the Manhattan Criminal Court and the criminal division of Manhattan State Supreme Court.

Among those treated and released for possible smoke inhalation was State Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro, said a court source who didn't want to be identified. Carro didn't return a phone call for comment.

The fire also forced the latest postponement of the sentencing of rapper Lil Wayne, who faces up to a year in jail in a plea deal on a weapons charge.

The fire was discovered about 10:32 a.m. and was declared under control by 11:55, said the FDNY. The cause of the blaze was under investigation by fire marshals. It could have been related to construction activity in the basement area, said a fire official.

According to David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state court system, all trials and arraignments will be moved across the street for the rest of the week, to 111 Centre St., a more modern building. Court officers assigned to 100 Centre conducted an orderly evacuation of the facility, Bookstaver said.

A spokesman for the city Department of Correction said a few hundred prisoners were taken to the adjacent White Street jail to await transport back to Rikers Island.

The 100 Centre St. building was opened in 1941, according to a city guide. It was built on what was, in the 19th century, the infamous "collect pond," a swampy pond that bordered the notorious Five Points slum. In the early 20th century the old Tombs prison also occupied the site. A jail facility in the current courthouse became known as the Tombs as well.

The courthouse also houses the Manhattan district attorney's office. The structure has become part of popular culture, sometimes serving as a backdrop for TV shows such as "Law and Order" and the defunct series "Centre Street."

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