WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There are 62 counties in New York state — 61 of them have just one Family Court.
But Westchester residents pay for three, and the county is about to spend $50 million over 30 years to keep it that way, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Monday.
By 2022, an empty lot on Garden Street in New Rochelle will have a new building housing a branch of Westchester Family Court. It will end a long dispute over where to relocate the outdated court facilities closer to downtown.
“We all know there were other options that might have been easier in the short-term and yet they would not have served us as well,” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said.
CBS2 told you about one option last September, when the county strongly indicated it would renovate an old grocery store for Family Court.
Instead, Westchester approved a pricier deal for the new building with developer Joe Simone, who County Executive George Latimer introduced as “a lifelong friend.”
“It’s more expensive process to build new construction, whether it’s with your friend or with anybody else,” Latimer said.
Latimer said the Garden Street deal was closely and appropriately scrutinized. He said with unanimous support from the New Rochelle City Council, he backs it.
Westchester County is unique in New York. It’s the only county with three family courts, in White Plains, Yonkers and New Rochelle. Meanwhile, Nassau County, Suffolk County, the Bronx and Queens have many more people, but each has only one Family Court.
The newly renovated Family Court in Yonkers has technology that allows video conferencing, but Westchester won’t explore consolidation. Instead, it is committing $50 million over 30 years to a newly built New Rochelle facility.
“I would argue very aggressively that a regionalized court system is the right way to go,” Latimer said.
In fact, Latimer said he wants a fourth Family Court serving the northern part of the county, rendering once again that convenience comes at a price to taxpayers.
Westchester said because the grocery store renovation project was never finalized, it cannot estimate how much more expensive leasing space in the new building will actually be.