Storm Update - The Courts Will Be Open On Thursday, November 1 And Therefore The Legal Aid Society Will Be Open At 9 AM On Thursday, November 1
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2012

As we all continue to take stock of the damage from the storm, our thoughts continue to be with all of those who have suffered so much.

As we reported earlier, managers and staff have been representing clients in the various Criminal, Civil and Family Court parts and parole hearings that have been operating today. The Office of Court Administration has now advised us that more Criminal, Civil and Family Court parts will be functioning tomorrow, including day and night arraignment shifts in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens and day shifts in Manhattan and Staten Island as well as parts to handle matters involving jailed Criminal Practice clients who will be produced in Criminal Court and Supreme Court cases. As was the case today, Family Court, Civil Court and parole matters will be moving forward tomorrow. With the resumption of court operations, we can no longer operate with limited staffing and we are obligated to be open for business in order to meet our client responsibilities and our contractual obligations.

Therefore, as is the case with the courts and the City, we will be open for business effective at 9 AM on Thursday, November 1. We recognize that the need to resume our operations presents significant challenges for all of us. During the transit strike, the Hurricane last year and repeated instances of inclement weather, we have developed policies to both meet our client service and contractual obligations and treat staff fairly. In accordance with these policies, staff members who are not on vacation or leave are expected to make every effort to come to work tomorrow and to do so as promptly as possible. As we did during the 2005 transit strike, during Hurricane Irene, and when we have invoked our inclement weather policy for the various snow storms, we will evaluate each person's individual circumstances and be reasonable when staff members have made every effort to come to work. Allan Fox, our Chief Human Resources Officer, will coordinate our consideration of these matters in consultation with managers. Residence in flooded areas is clearly a factor that Allan will take into account. As we also did during the transit strike, managers will attempt to assist with carpooling. Where necessary, with prior consultation with office supervisors, staff members can report to the closest office to their residence if travel to their regular office will not be possible.

Aside from the challenges of traveling to work that we will all face, we have challenges in operating at each office location. For the following offices, some of the locations currently have functioning telephone service, computer systems, and internet access and some do not: 111 Livingston Street in Brooklyn, 260 East 161st Street in the Bronx, 120-46 Queens Boulevard in Queens, 153-01 Jamaica Avenue in Queens, 60 Bay Street on Staten Island, the Harlem Community Law Office in Manhattan, and 14-14 Hazen Street on Rikers Island. We are working to restore Verizon service at each location where service is down but, as you can imagine, there are a number of problems that Verizon has encountered in restoring service for us and other entities.

Because of the continuing power outage in Manhattan south of 40th Street, our offices at 199 Water Street, 49 Thomas Street, 60 Lafayette Street, and 350 Broadway are without power and are closed until further notice. We are making arrangements with each office to relocate staff to work at other Legal Aid locations as we did after the events of September 11th made it impossible to work at our prior 90 Church Street office. Specific arrangements for staff members at those locations will be conveyed as soon as we can, and we are working to arrange for access to retrieve laptops, files, and other materials from these locations. We will also be communicating with the new Criminal Defense class regarding training during this period. With prior consultation with office supervisors, staff members at these locations can report to the closest office to their residence.

As we reported previously, for the limited number of staff who receive hard copies of their payroll checks, ADP (our payroll company) is located in New Jersey and was impacted by the storm. We now expect to have the checks tomorrow morning and we plan to deliver them to the offices where affected staff members work. We plan to deliver the the checks for staff who work in the locations that are closed to our office at 111 Livingston Street in Brooklyn.

The MTA website has information regarding transit service that is being updated regularly. Please also note that there is a three-person per car minimum if you are driving into New York City via the East River bridges and the RFK/Triborough Bridge from 6 a.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday. Other bridges have HOV restrictions as well.

We again want to thank the managers and staff who provided services to clients during the storm period and today. The client services that we provided are in the finest tradition of The Legal Aid Society. We thank all of you who will be at work tomorrow to assist us in continuing to provide client services and to comply with our contractual obligations.