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Battle Heats Up Over Probation Office Proposed For Financial District

Residents Of 'Stroller Alley' Say They Don't Want Criminals In Their Backyard

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Angry parents and neighbors swarmed to a community meeting Wednesday night, protesting plans for a probation office in a residential downtown Manhattan neighborhood known as “stroller alley.”

As CBS 2’s Tamara Leitner reported, residents have expressed fears that the probation office could bring violent offenders to the family-friendly neighborhood.

“This is Claire. Today is her 8-month birthday,” said area resident Millie Gillom. “I want you to look her in her eye and tell her that you want her to be a victim of a crime.”

Mothers, fathers, children, and business owners showed up to speak out against the probation office planned for the residential neighborhood within in the Financial District.

Tempers flared and emotions ran high during the community meeting. Residents and business owners also said they learned of the plans less than a week ago.

“We are against this, and I’m very leery of anything done under the cover of darkness, anything that’s done as sneakily as this was where nobody had notification, nobody was informed,” said Betty Cohen, director of corporate relations and government affairs for Century 21 department stores.

The probation office is being moved from its current location at the more commercial 346 Broadway to a building at 66 John St. – just 50 yards from a preschool. The area has so many families with children that it has picked up the “stroller alley” moniker, and right across the street is a Pace University residence hall.

“I have 2,000 students downtown, and 500 across the street, and 600 down the block, and 200 around the corner and I’m greatly concerned,” said Pace University Dean of Students Marijo Russell O’Grady.

Other parents earlier also said they were afraid the probation office would mean someone might be victimized. Patrick Kennel said he has never worried about his 3-year-old son Teddy attending preschool in the Financial District — until now.

“It’s a bad idea because it’s heavily residential. We have nine preschools within a six-block area,” Kennel said.

The Probation Department said only low-level offenders would go to the location, and the opening of the new office will be “handled in a way that has minimal community impact.”

Department of Probation spokesman Ryan Dodge said the facility would serve “people who are complying with the risk of their probation. This track does not include any sex offenders.”

The location will handle 40 clients a day Monday through Friday. Leitner was told these are low-risk offenders, including drug addicts, people convicted of theft and DWI.

But some neighborhood residents said they are uncomfortable with the idea regardless.

“That’s a little intimidating,” said Elizabeth Eegiman, a freshman at Pace University.

Eegiman and Madline Harvey live in the Pace dorm across from the proposed probation site.

“It’s actually kind of terrifying,” Harvey said.

The president of Community Board 1 told Leitner the board was originally told the probation office would be located somewhere else. It remained unclear Wednesday night whether the city went through the proper procedures to notify the neighborhood.

CBS 2 learned Wednesday night the Probation Department has already signed a lease on the proposed location. But residents said they will still fight to keep it out.

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