Nassau Family Court site change considered
A new Nassau Family Court Building at the site of the former Social Services Department headquarters in Garden City could be approved as soon as Wednesday, state court officials say.
"Nassau County has formally submitted its proposal to the New York State Court Facilities Capital Review Board, and we have recommended it," said Ronald Younkins, executive director of the state Office of Court Administration. Younkins said the board, which meets on the issue Wednesday, typically abides by OCA's recommendation.
"We have been working hard and for a long time with the [County Executive Edward] Mangano administration on this, and expect it to be approved," Younkins said.
The project would cost an estimated $168 million. Nassau, which like all counties in New York must provide for state courthouses within its boundaries, would bond the costs.
Relocation of the Family Court building has been an issue for years.
The Family Court is currently located in a 53-year-old building on Old Country Road in Westbury, two miles from the county's court complex in the Garden City-Mineola area. Detractors say the building is cramped and lacks sufficient parking.
"This OCA-approved plan makes sense," said Marian Rice, the outgoing president of the Nassau County Bar Association, whose leaders had long pushed for the proposed relocation.
Former County Executive Thomas Suozzi had planned to renovate the current building for about $80 million. OCA rebuffed the proposal three times, saying the facility still would be too small.
Suozzi, who lost to Mangano, a Republican, in 2009 and is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge him this fall, called the relocation plan "another unrealistic plan by Mangano that will be tied up in litigation for years and cost Nassau taxpayers more money.
"Relocating Family Court would face local opposition from the Village of Garden City and would be double the cost of renovating the existing facility in Westbury," Suozzi said.
The new Family Court on County Seat Drive would have 23 courtrooms for judges, magistrates and referees, along with chambers; 13 Matrimonial Center courtrooms, plus chambers; an Integrated Domestic Violence courtroom and chambers; and holding pens for adult and juvenile detainees.
Garden City Village Mayor John Watras did not return calls for comment. Village administrator Robert Schoelle was on vacation and could not be reached.
Schoelle in the past has expressed concern about whether the county's juvenile detention facility, which is attached to the Westbury courthouse, would move to the new court location. County Attorney John Ciampoli said the detention facility will not move to Garden City.
Other officials have said the courthouse relocation would prevent private development at the new site, potentially costing the village millions of dollars in property tax revenue.
Ciampoli said the project shows "County Executive Mangano's commitment to Nassau's children and families."