George Santos surrendered to authorities on Wednesday after being indicted by federal prosecutors for wire fraud, money laundering, stealing public funds, and lying on federal disclosure forms. If you’re unfamiliar with the Alfonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse, where he was ultimately taken into custody, you’ve probably never been to Suffolk County (or on the Southern State Parkway, where it looms in the distance like the Death Star).
The 235-foot tall, blindingly white Central Islip courthouse, designed by architect Richard Meier in 2000, is the largest building on Long Island proper and the second-largest courthouse in the country. (“In recent summers, Fire Island vacationers have watched it nearing completion across the water,” the New York Times’ Herbert Muschamp wrote when it was being built.) It cost more than $200 million to build, a price point that caused a fight in Congress, and was named for a living Republican senator, which caused another fight. (“It’s disgraceful,” Robert C. Gottlieb, co-chairman of the Suffolk County Bar Association’s federal court committee, told the Times. ”The former senator does not stand for the highest ethics and integrity that a courthouse should represent.”)
But much of that context has faded over the decades; today, it’s just a freaky behemoth of a building. Meier, part of the New York Five, who also answered to “The Whites,” was known for his allegiance to the color and Le Corbusier. (Meier retired from his firm in 2021 under a cloud of sexual-harassment allegations.) A stark white cylindrical rotunda acts as the building’s entryway, opening into an atrium that Meier told the Times was meant to be welcoming: “From every level you can look down into it and you’re part of the comings and goings of the building.” (Brent Staples, then at Slate, just called it hard to heat, noting security guards “huddled around a space heater grumbling about the cold” during a visit in 2001.)
Meier famously loved stark whites — eventually commissioning his own, which he called “the right white, the whitest white.” When you look at the federal courthouse, it’s hard to disagree. You just hope Santos had the foresight to wear sunglasses.