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Courts return to GSA facilities

September 21, 2020

By Ben Zabava

Front view of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan.
Front view of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan. The building is home to multiple tenants, including the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

In spite of the unique challenges of COVID-19, the U.S. General Services Administration has worked to be constantly there for tenant agencies, keeping GSA’s federally-owned facilities safely open and available for operations throughout the pandemic. As tenant agencies begin transitioning their personnel back to working onsite, GSA is there to ease these returns, as well. One example has been GSA’s partnership with the various U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts throughout GSA’s Northeast and Caribbean Region of New York, northern New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The process was formally kick-started in May when GSA Northeast and Caribbean Regional Administrator John A. Sarcone initiated a series of meetings between GSA and each one of the region’s U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts to help plan their safe returns.

“The first step was bringing GSA, the Marshals Service, and the Federal Protective Service together with each of the individual courts to pinpoint their intentions, desired features, and milestones for returning to their facilities,” Sarcone said. “These meetings permitted all parties to discuss feasibility and options for satisfying those intentions, implementing those features, and achieving those milestones in the safest and most secure ways possible.”

Some courts occupy their own courthouses dedicated solely to them. Others operate in federal buildings shared with multiple other agencies.

“Any building with more than one tenant has a body called a Facility Security Committee that approves plans related to the building’s security and safety, including those for COVID-19,” said GSA Office of Mission Assurance Regional Emergency Lead Roy Crowe. “FSCs have representation from each of the agencies occupying that building, to give all tenants a voice in decisions.”

Besides each court’s input and that of other tenants, where applicable, pandemic guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to inform all building safety measures GSA has taken in response to COVID-19. These include enhanced cleaning and disinfection of spaces, modifying service contracts to require face coverings for all service personnel, social distancing signs and decals, hand sanitizer stands, new filters in air filtration systems, and other heating, ventilation, and air conditioning operational changes. Through every course of action, GSA’s first priority remains the safety, security and well-being of all tenants and visitors.

Regional Administrator Sarcone offered a final reflection on the importance GSA places on its relationships with each one of the individual courts whose facilities GSA maintains.

“The federal judiciary is central to the identity of the United States and a shining beacon on which we all depend for equal justice under the law,” Sarcone said. “I believe GSA’s contribution to keeping that beacon lit – by providing safe and secure facilities in which our courts can sit, regardless of pandemics, social issues, or any other challenging circumstances – is essential for our country’s ability to keep being the nation we all know, one of equality and laws for all Americans.”

For more information about returning to GSA facilities, please visit GSA's Safer Federal Workplace.

Last Reviewed: 2021-08-30