The judge who approved the state’s seizure of properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint earlier this week received a letter containing a suspicious white powder on Thursday, causing an evacuation of the entire 24th floor of the Kings County Supreme Court on Jay Street in Downtown.
It is unclear whether the substance mailed to Justice Abraham Gerges — which was found to be “inert,” according to cops — was sent in connection with the Atlantic Yards case, a steroid case that he is currently hearing or something deeper in the long career of this judge and former City Councilman.
Whatever the roots of the incident, here is what is known: Gerges’s secretary opened the envelope at around 12:15 pm, cops said. The NYPD and the Fire Department swarmed into the building at Johnson Street and evacuated the floor.
The secretary — who was not in the office on Friday — was “decontaminated,” though the sketchy white powder was later found to be merely a harmless reminder of the nationwide anthrax scare from 2001 that killed several people.
A spokesman for the court system downplayed the incident.
“Frankly, when we learned it was inert, we got back to our business,” said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state courts.
The NYPD said its detectives were investigating the envelope, and that counterterrorism and intelligence teams were aware of the incident.
Gerges is mostly in the current spotlight over last Monday’s Atlantic Yards ruling, which transferred ownership of several buildings in the project footprint to the state via eminent domain, removing one of the final obstacles to developer Bruce Ratner’s mega-project.
The steroid case is also high-profile, involving a Staten Island doctor accused of prescribing illegal steroids to musclemen — including city cops — looking for that extra edge in the gym.
Whatever the cause of the powder-filled threat, there is no doubt that the furor over the Atlantic Yards is reaching a crescendo.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Barclays Center is set for this Thursday, and project opponents have called an “all hands on deck” protest to voice their opposition.
And passions are running high. In the comments section under The Brooklyn Paper’s online coverage of Gerges’s Atlantic Yards ruling, there is considerable criticism of the longtime jurist — some of it hinting at violence.
“This judge should be strung up from a street light in said neighborhood,” posted a commenter who identified himself as “Die” from “Mohterf—r.”
Other commenters were a bit less harsh, but just as angry.
“Can’t we get a decision from a judge who doesn’t have questionable history?” asked “Freddy” from Park Slope.
Even those who respect Gerges seemed to have problems with the ruling.
“Just as the Atlantic Yards deal was a ‘contract’ from the start, Abe Gerges — a nice man — is simply fulfilling the Kings County judicial end of the deal,” added “Tony” from “Waterfront.”
Throughout the controversy over the Atlantic Yards, neither those in favor nor against the project have stooped to violence — though the barflies at Freddy’s Bar have pledged to chain themselves to bar should the beloved Dean Street drinking hole be condemned.
Also, they set up a guillotine made of beer cans and cut off the head of an effigy of eminent domain. In this case, the violent imagery was strictly for laughs.