Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Theodore Roosevelt Courthouse
Address: 225 Cadman Plaza East
Cross Streets: Corner of Tillary Street
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: Designed in 1995, begun in 2000, but not opened until 2006
Architectural Style: Late Modernism
Architect: César Pelli
Other buildings by architect: World Financial Center, Manhattan; Petronas Twin Towers, Malaysia; plus many, many more.
The story: As Brooklyn’s civic center, Downtown Brooklyn has its share of courthouses. From traffic to Supreme, from civil court to small claims court, and every kind of court imaginable, there is a building in the downtown area to hold it. We also are home to a Federal court branch, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, aka, the EDNY. This court has jurisdiction over federal cases in the entirety of Long Island and Staten Island. That includes Kings, Queens, Richmond, Nassau and Suffolk counties. For that much land, and potential legal wrangling for big federal cases, you need a big courthouse.
The Theodore Roosevelt Courthouse was built to replace the 1962 Emanuel Celler Federal Building, which is still just next door. The government hired César Pelli, one of the pre-eminent architects of today, to design the new courthouse. It joins the old Celler building by means of a new atrium and entryway, on Cadman Plaza East. The new building is a 15-story building whose side, the most visible part of the building, faces Tillary Street. It is quite impressive.
César Pelli was born in Argentina in 1926 and studied in Argentina before completing his training at the University of Illinois. His first job was with Eero Saarinen, in New Haven, where he was project manager for the building of Morse and Stiles residential colleges at Yale in 1961. He would one day be Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale, between 1977 and 1984. Pelli became an American citizen in 1964, and would go on to be one of the most prolific and important architects of the 20th century.
He is known for his very tall towers, as well as his use of gleaming steel, metal and glass to produce very modern buildings that often manage to have hints of the Art Deco in their shape and use of materials. For many years, his most famous building, the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was the tallest building in the world.
The EDNY courthouse was begun in 2000, but construction was halted by both the Oklahoma bombing and 9/11, when the designs were modified to include more security measures to prevent acts of terrorism. It finally opened in 2006. It was originally slated to be named for former Governor Hugh Carey, but because he was still alive at the time, that idea was dropped to avoid partisan arguments. Senator Chuck Schumer suggested the building be named for Theodore Roosevelt, which passed easily through the Senate. The Federal Court hears both criminal and civil cases, where the United States is represented in litigation. GMAP