When Abigail Kramer, a journalist and advocate on children’s issues, entered the world of Family Court, she was haunted by its infamous moniker: “The saddest place in New York.”
Kramer found much that confirmed that assessment:
“The courthouse is dismal in the particular way of municipal buildings that serve the very poor,” Kramer wrote in a recent report for the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. “The walls and floors are scuffed. The ceiling is a low patchwork of industrial foam squares. There are no windows to the outside. For a place that deals in the problems of families, it’s remarkably difficult to navigate with kids: Food and drinks are not allowed. There’s nowhere private to nurse a baby unless you go to the first-floor child care room, where you won’t hear a court officer call your case. At 10 a.m. on a recent Friday morning, about 30 people sat on benches, wearing the vaguely taxidermied look of those who expect to wait for a very long time. In a corner, a woman rocked a baby back and forth in a stroller. Down the hall and behind a closed door, a toddler screamed, ‘I want mommy, I want mommy.’"
But Kramer, a staff member at the New School, also found some cause for hope in the court system that handles custody cases, child abuse allegations and juvenile offenders.