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University sues city to keep block safe

A newly relocated probation office at 66 John St., blocks away from One Pace Plaza and directly across from a University residence hall, is the subject of a neighborhood uprising that has escalated to a New York State Supreme Court lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in December by the University, department store Century 21 and Financial District residents, argues that the city “did not adequately study the potential impact of the office…before signing a lease for the 35,000-square-foot space,” according to DNAinfo.com. The office serves people convicted of misdemeanors and felonies.

Vanessa Herman, assistant vice-president of government and community relations at the University, criticized the move, saying, “We were disappointed to learn that the City made a decision like this without consulting community stakeholders, elected officials or Pace. Locating this facility in the heart of ‘Stroller Alley,’ in close proximity to Pace dorms, numerous daycare centers, elementary schools and residential apartments, is simply a bad decision on the City’s part.”

In December, students attempted to voice their displeasure at the then-proposed office, with the Student Government Association discussing the situation at a meeting before organizing a group of students to speak at a community meeting.

However, students’ concerns were not heard and the probation office opened as planned in early January, after a judge denied the University’s request for a temporary restraining order. Ryan Doge, a Department of Probation spokesman, stressed at a community meeting that the office would not serve sex offenders, listing instead the top three offenses for people in the office’s category: drug-related crimes, grand larceny, and DWIs. The department describes these offenders as “low-risk.”

Junior Jonathan De Leon said the University is doing its job of protecting students from possible danger by pursuing the lawsuit: “I don’t think it’s anything against these people on probation, it’s just being cautious. The fact is there are many toddler schools and a university [in the area] and it is known that a large number of criminals on probation commit crimes again and go…to prison. So if we could avoid that happening in our neighborhood it would be in our best interest,” said De Leon before adding, “They should have made more effort to place it somewhere else, especially when there was a big negative reaction when the community heard about this.”

Senior Sam Scadron echoed the concerns of the community, saying, “It is a bit worrisome that their probation offices are so close to all of us. [The University has]…an obligation to keep their students safe, and this sort of seems like it could be a disaster waiting to happen. With the police headquarters being just up the street, why can’t they have the probation offices up there?” asked Scadron.

The University is set to continue fighting the office’s opening, with Herman saying, “The University, along with Century 21 and concerned community members are continuing all legal efforts. …We will continue to discuss this matter with relevant city agencies and the Mayor’s office to try to get this decision reversed.”