Plaintiffs file 17 sex abuse complaints in Queens under state’s Child Victim’s Act

Survivors of childhood sex abuse hug during a sex abuse prevention summit at the Vatican earlier this year. AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.

Survivors of childhood sex abuse hug during a sex abuse prevention summit at the Vatican earlier this year. AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.

By David Brand

A total of 17 plaintiffs have filed civil complaints in Queens Supreme Court against people who they say abused them — and the institutions that enabled the abuse or looked the other way — under the state’s landmark Child Victims Act. Six were filed in Queens on the first day under the law last month

The CVA, which was signed into law in February, includes a one-year “look-back window,” which opened Aug. 14 after months of preparations by state courts, attorneys and litigants. The look-back period enables people who were abused as children to sue their abusers and the institutions that abetted them, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

In addition to the 17 cases filed in Queens, there were 251 complaints in New York City’s other four Supreme Civil Courts. Manhattan lead the five boroughs with 152 cases filed, followed by Brooklyn, with 69. There were 27 cases filed in the Bronx and three in Staten Island. The majority of cases in New York City were filed on Aug. 14, the  first day under the law, 

The state court system has designated 45 judges to hear cases under the CVA, according to the Office of Court Administration. In Queens, Justices Chereé Buggs and Larry Love are handling the new cases. OCA said they will assign additional judges if needed.

“We have been preparing for months and are prepared for the anticipated filing of hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of cases starting today,” an OCA spokesperson told the Eagle in August.

Many of the Queens complaints have alleged systemic abuse at larger institutions, including a school in Middle Village, another school in Fresh Meadows and Rockefeller University.

One lawsuit filed Aug. 14 in Queens Supreme Court accused notorious physician Reginald Archibald, a longtime doctor at Rockefeller University, of persistent abuse. The complaint claimed that Rockefeller University knew about that abuse and did nothing to stop it. 

The plaintiff, identified as W.F.L. said Archibald groped, fondled and photographed him during biannual visits from 1963 to 1968, according to the complaint. Archibald has been accused of abusing potentially thousands of boys in his care.

“At all relevant times RU, through its employees and agents, knew that Dr. Archibald, under its supervision and control, was sexually inappropriate with minor male patients,” the complaint states.

Another civil complaint filed against St. Margaret’s Church in Middle Village accuses Father James Collins, various “John Doe” defendants and the Brooklyn Diocese of committed sexual abuse against children. 

For plaintiff Thomas Belcastro, the alleged sex abuse began in 1982 when he was just a 5-year-old kindergartner at St. Margaret’s. That year, various priests and seminary students began to sexually abuse Belcastro, according to the complaint.

The next year, Belcastro encountered Father James Collins, a priest at the parish who has been sued several times for sexual abuse. Collins was defrocked by the Catholic Church.

At least two plaintiffs named St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows as a defendant in CVA cases.