A de facto 38th Parallel in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn has emerged along Cadman Plaza East between the federal courthouse and the city’s Office of Emergency Management building.
Granted, the de-militarized “zone” is only about one foot wide, but there’s no denying its meaning: one side of the line is city-controlled turf, the other side is federal land.
The line was painted by the city to warn construction workers — who are toiling on the north wing of the federal courthouse — to keep their equipment on their side, explained Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel.
Message received, said U.S. District Courthouse project engineer Robert Collegio.
“The white line is as far as we’re going to go,” he said. “We’re just trying to work with our neighbors and be happy — it’s a good neighbor policy.”
Both sides sound relieved to stand down.
“We were just joking today about how we’re having a little turf war out here,” said Karen, an OEM employee who declined to give her last name. “I say we set up some softball games [and] the winner takes control of the parking lot for a week.”
Kidding aside, the joke itself reveals how the public remains the losing party in this bureaucratic battle.
Until 9-11, the street was open for drivers, who could use it as a straight shot from Downtown to DUMBO. But after the terror attack, the feds seized it, citing security needs
Subsequently, judges and other employees from the U.S. District Court and OEM workers, both between Tillary Street and Red Cross Place, commandeered the block for use as a parking lot.
The federal judges and attorneys will be gone until 2010, thanks to construction trailers that will occupy the entire south end of the street.
Those federal workers now have to fend for themselves, a courthouse spokesman said. If so, that makes them quite unlike their state court counterparts at the Adams Street courthouse just to the south. Recently, those workers seized the northern part of Columbus Park as a temporary parking lot.
— with Emily Lavin