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New Bronx County Courthouse Finally Opens

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A few years past its original completion date and almost $100 million over budget, the Bronx County Hall of Justice — one of the largest courthouses ever built in the U.S. — finally opened Monday.

"It's been a long time coming, it was a very big and complex project, and it took a long time," said Office of Court Administration chief of operations Ron Younkins.

The court, which is expected to ease overcrowding at the nearby Bronx County and Bronx Family courthouses, heard its first case Monday. The building covers two full blocks on 161st Street.

With its 47 courtrooms and seven grand jury rooms, the Bronx District Attorney says the new courthouse will greatly help move cases along much quicker.

"What we've seen is that the cell capacity in there is limited and because of that, the Police Department has to farm out people to precincts while they're waiting arraignment. Then they have to get the proper people back to match the cases that are ready. And that's caused us great difficulty in meeting the 24-hour goal in terms of arrest to arraignment,” said Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.

Construction on the courthouse began in 2001. It was supposed to open in 2005, but ran into several delays, including contaminated soil and a change in contractors.

Originally budgeted for $325 million, it ended up costing $421 million.

The delays and cost of the courthouse have given it a bad reputation. But how do those who live and work in the area feel about their neighborhood's new glass and aluminum building?

"I don't like it; I think it's ugly," said one person.

"It's OK, it's nice, I like it," added another.

"It's the ugliest piece of work," added a third.

"It looks very nice," added a fourth. "I'm supposed to be in the other building, but I look forward to having cases here and seeing what the building is all about."

But while the courthouse is open, a 200-car underground garage will not be anytime soon.

"One of the levels of the garage is buckling a bit," said Younkins. "This is being addressed by the state dormitory authority, which is building this building on behalf of the city.
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