Courts Building is located on the block surrounded by Centre, Leonard,
Baxter and White Streets. It currently houses the Criminal and Supreme
Courts, the District Attorney, Legal Aid, offices for the Police Department,
Department of Correction, and Department of Probation.
The Criminal Courthouse was designed by
Wiley Corbett and Charles B. Meyers. Construction began in 1938 and was
completed in 1941, at a cost of $14 million. The site, formerly known as
Collect Pond, had been the location of the old 1894 Criminal Courthouse
and the old Tombs prison.
The seventeen-story Art Deco courthouse has a steel frame and a granite
and limestone facade. The building is composed of four towers in front,
with a jail behind. The taller center tower is stepped, like a ziggurat.
The windows and spandrel form vertical bands alternating with the stone
piers. The imposing entrance consists of two huge, freestanding granite
columns. A wing designed by the Gruzen Partnership was added in 1986.
One of the original designers, Harvey Wiley Corbett (1873-1954), was one
of the architects who planned Rockefeller Center. He also designed the
Art Deco style North Building of Metropolitan Life. Charles B. Meyers
(1875-1958) designed the Family Courthouse at 135-43 East 22nd Street,
the unusual Art Deco/Byzantine style Main Building of Yeshiva
University, and the former Municipal Health Building nearby at 125 Worth
Street. He won a gold medal for his New York State building at the 1915
Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
On the inside, a hanging clock marks the center of the two-story high
marble lobby. There are Art Deco lighting fixtures and metal doors and
two grand staircases with ornamental railings. The simple courtrooms
have wood wainscoting and Art Deco lighting fixtures.
Lumet's '100 Centre St.'
a lion's roar for A&E
Famed director struts his craft in
By Andrew Wallenstein
The lure of a TV program doesn't always
have to be the name of the person in front of the camera. Any doubt
about that was dispelled by Ken Burns' documentary "Jazz," which more
than doubled the average PBS audience in its debut last week.
A&E is hoping the power of pedigree will work
likewise for "100 Centre St." (Mondays, 9-10 p.m. ET, began Jan.
15) its first original dramatic series.
The draw behind the camera here is Sidney Lumet,
the legendary film director behind classics like "Serpico" and "12 Angry
Men." Although he earned his reputation in cinema, with 5 Oscar
nominations to his credit, Lumet got his start in TV 40 years ago,
directing episodes of "You Are There" and "Studio One" at the dawn of
Still, no matter how distinguished a director might be,
the average viewer is savvy enough to detect when a network is dusting
off a dinosaur. Lumet hasn't had a hit in any medium in quite awhile, so
rumors of his extinction are understandable. However, "Centre" proves
this relic can still roar.
Shot in high-definition video, "Centre" chronicles the
proceedings at a Manhattan night court with riveting realism.
Ordinarily, diving back into a realm NBC turned into a long-running but
awful '80s sitcom responsible for the comic genius of Richard Moll (Bull
the Bailiff) might not seem like a good idea.
However, the excellence of "Centre" shouldn't be
surprising, considering that Lumet's best work, including "The Verdict,"
has been situated in the legal arena.
"Centre" was originally intended for NBC, but the
Peacock passed and it's easy to see why: The series is so similar to
"Law & Order" that it could be confused as yet another spin-off. But
"Centre" may in fact be better than the vaunted "L&O" if its
determination to present jurisprudence verite
is any indication.
Lawyers don't make grandiose speeches on "Centre"; they talk
with their heads bowed into the papers they incessantly shuffle on their
podiums, just as in real life (or at least Court TV).
The courtroom chatter is thick with indecipherable legal
lingo and moves with a locomotive speed that visibly discomfits the
defendants, whose lives hang in the balance.
There's not a trace of glamour anywhere; if David E.
Kelley sent a member of either of his legal dramas, "The Practice" or
"Ally McBeal," for a crossover episode, they'd get eaten alive.
"Centre" concentrates on the limits of mercy. All of
its characters struggle in their own way with handling their
responsibilities without losing their humanity. There's Bobby Esposito
(Joseph Lyle Taylor), a prosecuting attorney who can keep his
drug-addicted brother out of jail if he erases a previous arrest from
Veteran thespian Alan Arkin acquits himself nicely as
Joe Rifkind, a bleeding-heart judge nicknamed "Let 'Em Go Joe," whose
liberal tendencies are put to the test when a thug kills a policewoman
just hours after being set free in his courtroom.
Aside from Arkin, the solid cast boasts no established
actors. The only familiar face is Paula Devicq, who was outstanding on
several seasons of Fox's "Party of Five" depicting a woman who suffered
from bouts of depression.
In "Centre," she plays a trust-fund ingénue
who flees her fate at a white-shoe firm run by her insufferable father by
roughing it at the assistant district attorney's office. Her budding but
awkward romance with Esposito will keep you coming back for future
episodes. For Lumet to hire Devicq validates a talent that could
have been easily overlooked considering her work on a schmaltzy network
series. But this is an actress to keep an eye on.
"Centre" represents a crucial performance not just for
Devicq, but A&E as well. Its failure to build on the success of its
"Biography" franchise is responsible for its perception as a one-note
But with former Miramax executive Allen Sabinson in as senior
vice president of programming, A&E is starting to take the right steps
toward special-event fiction programming, from getting Mira Sorvino for
a new version of "The Great Gatsby" to last week's announcement that
Kenneth Branagh will headline a big-budget miniseries about famed
Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Along with "Centre," A&E is
making great strides toward its targeted older demographics.