In the early 1990’s I tried a felony criminal case in this beautiful old courthouse. I have very fond memories of those three weeks. Yes, I did get a good result for my client, but I’m not writing this post to brag. What I remember most is how much I enjoyed exploring the building.
The Long Island City Courthouse is located near the corner of Thomson Avenue and Court Square, across from the Citibank Building.
It was originally built between 1872 and 1876, and then rebuilt after a fire in the early 1900’s.
Nobody wanted to get assigned to a judge whose courtroom was way out in Long Island City in the early 1990’s, far from the main Queens courthouses in Jamaica and Kew Gardens. I’m sure the same is true today. I wasn’t too happy either at first, but I learned to enjoy my time there.
I began eating lunch at the old Brooks 1890 Restaurant, which is right across the street. Good food, lots of ambiance, and a little history of its own.
I discovered the ceremonial courtroom on the top floor, which has been featured in many movies and television shows over the years, including “Manslaughter,” directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and “The Wrong Man,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock. At least one episode of “The Sopranos” had a scene shot at the courthouse. The courtroom is flooded with natural light from an enormous skylight and giant windows.
To see how the courtroom looked during 1922, watch this silent movie clip from “Manslaughter”:
In 1952, Willie Sutton was tried in this courthouse before the Honorable Peter T. Farrell. It was during this trial that he supposedly was asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, and replied, “because that’s where the money is.” Sutton later denied saying it. He was found guilty and sentenced to 30 to 100 years in Attica State Prison.
Today, the courthouse is used exclusively for civil cases.
The building was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1976. It is also listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.