NEW YORK, Aug 23 (Reuters) - The earthquake that struck the
East Coast on Tuesday afternoon shook things up at New York
courthouses around New York, but only a little.
The magnitude-5.9 quake was centered in Mineral, Virginia,
according to the U.S. Geological Survey, but the effects were
felt as far away as Canada.
As the earth swayed in different parts of New York at about
1:52 p.m., state and federal court officials differed on
whether to leave or stay put.
Only some state court buildings were evacuated, according
to David Bookstaver, spokesman for the Office of Court
"That decision is made by the administrative judge in
consultation with the head of security at a particular
facility," he said.
At the state and federal courthouses in lower Manhattan,
hundreds of people gathered on the sidewalks. Brides in wedding
dresses, their ceremonies put on hold, stood alongside their
grooms and attendants, while handcuffed defendants waited in
the street under the watchful eyes of court officers.
It took about five minutes to clear 500 Pearl Street, the
26-story building that houses the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of New York, according to Stephanie
Cirkovich, the court's public information officer. After the
building manager made the decision to evacuate at 1:57, the
occupants exited the federal building without a hitch,
'A MINOR BLIP'
Courthouses in northern Albany and Columbia counties were
also evacuated, "but both were given the all-clear by the
facilities director and allowed to return," said Ronald
Younkins, operations chief for the Office of Court
Administration. "Some places seemed to have felt it more than
others. Schenectady County evacuated and returned, but the
other courts in the Fourth District were fine."
There were no reports of damages or injuries, Younkins
In the Eastern District courthouse in Brooklyn, federal
judges, lawyers and court employees left at about 2 p.m. and
gathered in a park across the street, where they chatted about
feeling the floor sway. For about five minutes, guards would
not let anyone in the building.
Robert Heinemann, the court clerk, said there was no
official evacuation in Brooklyn, but the building manager at
Federal Plaza in Central Islip cleared that site for about 30
"It was a minor blip in New York," Heinemann said of the
quake. I'm sure it was bigger elsewhere. Just 10 seconds of
One person who may have been relieved at the earthquake's
timing was Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Less than a
minute into the press conference he had called to explain why
his office had asked a judge to dismiss all charges against
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the floor began to shake. Vance
eventually cancelled the conference, where he would have faced
direct questioning from the press, and issued a written
statement over email.
(Reporting by Jennifer Golson; Additional reporting by
Joseph Ax and Jessica Dye)
Follow us on Twitter: @ReutersLegal