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Thread: One Chase Manhattan Plaza - by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  1. #46

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    Sometimes, the best way to battle Corporate Anxiety Disorder is to give them publicity they may not want.

    And the issue is already in the courts, and there was a hearing recently...

    July 4, 2012

    Suit Seeks Plans for Closed Public Plaza as Owner’s Motives Are Questioned


    By COLIN MOYNIHAN

    For months, people walking past Chase Manhattan Plaza in Lower Manhattan have gazed upon an empty two-acre expanse surrounded by fences and patrolled by private security guards.

    Although the plaza, located a block from the New York Stock Exchange, has been open to the public for decades, tall accordion-style fencing anchored with sandbags was placed around the area in mid-September. The plaza’s owner, JPMorgan Chase, did not issue a statement about closing the site, but some wondered if the decision was prompted by the Occupy Wall Street protests. Organizers had announced plans to hold a meeting in the plaza on Sept. 17, on the first day of the movement, which eventually attracted worldwide attention.

    Since then, even as the Occupy protests have trailed off, the fences have remained, and have drawn the attention of critics.

    Over the past six months, supporters of open and accessible public space have accused the bank of keeping people out of the plaza without justification. After contractors obtained a permit to put up sturdier fences as part of a renovation plan, one man sued the New York City Department of Buildings over a refusal to disclose the plans. The suit also challenged an assertion by the city that the plans should remain secret because the plaza and the tower next to it are potential terrorism targets.

    The legal battle has added to a debate about whether a powerful institution that traces its roots to historic Lower Manhattan put up a fence as part of an effort to forestall criticism of the financial system, then pointed to security concerns to limit speech faulting its actions.

    Michael F. Fusco, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, declined to comment on any complaints or inquiries about the bank’s actions. He also declined to explain why the fencing was erected in September.

    Paula Z. Segal, the lawyer who drafted the lawsuit against the Buildings Department, said security guards at Chase Plaza had told her on several occasions that the fencing was meant to keep protesters from assembling there.

    At a recent hearing in State Supreme Court, Justice Paul Wooten suggested that the city should take another look at the plans and see what could be disclosed.

    Mark Taylor, a lawyer for Richard Nagan, who sued the Buildings Department, said that the judge had told the city he would not approve “blanket immunity” from freedom of information laws, and proposed that the city redact sensitive information from the plans.

    Mr. Nagan, a construction expediter and consultant, said the plans could show whether the bank was carrying out renovations or simply obtaining a series of permits while keeping the plaza off limits.


    “The Buildings Department said the only way the public could see the plans would be if the owner gave approval,” he said.

    In 1955, when the original plans for Chase Manhattan Plaza were announced, the city granted zoning changes to allow the project to proceed and agreed to permanently close part of Cedar Street to create an uninterrupted site, something that was rarely done to accommodate a private commercial development.

    The Landmarks Preservation Commission, in designating the site a landmark in 2009, cited the plaza at the base of the 813-foot glass-and-aluminum tower as “one of the project’s dramatic and distinct features.”

    From the earliest days of its planning, the plaza was described as a public space. During a dedication in 1961 to celebrate the tower’s opening, Chase’s president, David Rockefeller, said it had taken “imagination and a sense of citizenship to clear an open plaza on some of the city’s most valuable land and throw it open to the light of the sun — and the public.”

    Unlike nearby Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy protesters eventually camped for two months, Chase Plaza has no agreement with the city to stay open 24 hours a day. But Ms. Segal said that depriving people of the use of one of the most significant open areas in Lower Manhattan appeared to violate at least the spirit of landmark rules.

    “The general public should be concerned that there is a pre-emptive closing of a historically public space just because the bank that owns it has an inkling that people might want to gather there and talk about what the bank is doing,” she said. She said she began contacting the Buildings Department and the landmarks commission last winter to ask whether the fencing was authorized. City records show that the department did not issue any violations, and that inspectors noted in several reports that no construction fencing existed at the plaza at the time.

    The landmarks commission said the fencing did not require the agency’s permission because it was not physically attached to the plaza.

    In February, after an article about Ms. Segal’s inquiries appeared in The Village Voice, a contractor obtained a permit to do waterproofing work on the plaza, which the city first approved in 2010. Three days later, another contractor got a permit to surround the plaza with plywood and chain-link fencing. Soon after, Ms. Segal said, workers at the plaza pried up a few pieces of paving but most of the plaza appeared to be unchanged.

    Ms. Segal and Mr. Nagan asked to see the renovation plans, citing state freedom of information laws. But the Buildings Department denied their request, and said that sharing the plans “would endanger the life or safety” of the public.

    After a second denial, Ms. Segal and Mr. Nagan filed a lawsuit saying that the department was violating freedom-of-information laws by refusing to disclose the plans. The agency replied that Chase Manhattan Plaza was on a Police Department list of sensitive buildings that could be vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

    In an affidavit, a police lieutenant said the waterproofing plans contained detailed information about the plaza and the tower beside it and should be kept secret.

    On a recent afternoon, several workers in the financial district ate lunch near the sealed-off plaza. One of them, Wendy Smith, 47, from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, said she remembered the original fencing going up in September.

    “I never hear any machinery back there,” she said. “I wonder what’s going on behind this fence.”

    © 2012 The New York Times Company
    Last edited by ZippyTheChimp; July 7th, 2012 at 06:25 PM.

  2. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeCom View Post
    I feel your sentiment. As a kid, instead of hugging buildings, I liked to touch them, just to feel the texture, or what it's really like to be right there, and not just look at it. Back then I had a much less pragmatic, and much more mystical attitude towards urbanity. Interesting times.
    I guess I'll always be an animist and a mystic I don't just hug, I do lay on hands, feeling steel, stone, and glass under my fingers, feeling out the "presence" within those magnificent structures. There's a few buildings I left off my list earlier- My first night in NYC on my last visit, I got all three of the XYZ buildings and 30 Rock too. I sense a much nicer presence from the XYZ towers than most people do.

    On a purely pragmatic level, I think that the bank is abusing the law to keep their plaza fenced off like this. Shame on them!

  3. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amanita View Post
    I guess I'll always be an animist and a mystic I don't just hug, I do lay on hands, feeling steel, stone, and glass under my fingers, feeling out the "presence" within those magnificent structures. There's a few buildings I left off my list earlier- My first night in NYC on my last visit, I got all three of the XYZ buildings and 30 Rock too. I sense a much nicer presence from the XYZ towers than most people do.

    On a purely pragmatic level, I think that the bank is abusing the law to keep their plaza fenced off like this. Shame on them!
    The XYZ is a set of building that I still feel a very strong, mystical-type attraction to, and I see them in a much more positive light than many other people do. I know they are faulted in a ton of ways, from an urban standpoint, but somehow I just can't bring myself to feel negatively about them. I did my Bachelor's Thesis about integrating the XYZ into a network of vertical public spaces, making them into a connective element between Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the Columbus Circle areas, all of which being centers of public vibrancy. I think that, of all people, you might be interested in that work. The document is 72 pages long, mostly graphic work, lemme know if you wanna get a PDF copy.

    Back on topic, and closer to your post content, how does the status of the Rockefeller Plaza compare to that of Chase Manhattan? Could they, technically, close off the Rockefeller Plaza a la Chase Manhattan? Speaking of the XYZ, the Rockefeller Group doesn't seem to have a problem with closing off their adjacent public spaces for indeterminate periods of time.
    Last edited by LeCom; July 9th, 2012 at 12:19 AM.

  4. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeCom View Post
    Back on topic, and closer to your post content, how does the status of the Rockefeller Plaza compare to that of Chase Manhattan? Could they, technically, close off the Rockefeller Plaza a la Chase Manhattan?
    I believe Rockefeller Plaza is closed to pedestrian traffic one day a year to maintain its privacy.

  5. #50

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    LeCom, I'd love a copy of your piece, it sounds really cool.
    Yeah, I've heard that Rockefeller Center and Lever House close their plazas for one day a year, to maintain its status as private property. As for the XYZ buildings, last time I was there, I noticed that the sunken plaza of McGraw-Hill was closed off at night, but I didn't see anything as extreme as what Chase is doing downtown.

    On another note, two friends and I are cosplaying as avatars of the XYZ buildings at next year's local Sci-fi convention. I'm designing some kick-ass outfits for us, featuring long coats in the same color as the building facades, and some cool looking body armor. Those broad-shouldered skyscrapers look pretty tough, they would make good City Guardians. Since I'm the tallest, I'm gonna be Exxon

  6. #51

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    C'mon - reopen that public plaza!


















    Last edited by asg; July 12th, 2012 at 11:51 PM.

  7. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by asg View Post
    *cough* um... right. I don't think I was even "desirable" when I WAS 25.

  8. #53
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Chase Bank Officials Defend Continued Closure of Lower Manhattan Plaza

    By Julie Shapiro













    FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Chase Manhattan Plaza will remain closed until the spring, while JPMorgan Chase does a major waterproofing project, bank officials told angry residents Thursday night.

    Speaking publicly about the 700,000-square-foot plaza's closure for the first time this week, JPMorgan Chase officials denied that they shut down access to the open space in response to Occupy Wall Street, despite the fact that it happened a day before OWS protesters arrived in an attempt to move into the plaza last September.

    "It has nothing to do with that," Karen McGuinness, a vice president at JPMorgan Chase, told skeptical residents at Thursday night's Community Board 1 meeting.

    Downtown residents were upset to lose one of the largest open spaces in the heart of the heavily developed Financial District. Their frustration grew as months passed and the plaza at Liberty and Nassau streets remained closed, with no visible sign of JPMorgan Chase's promised construction taking place. A lawsuit seeking more information about the project was filed earlier this year.

    JPMorgan Chase officials said the plaza, which surrounds the bank's skyscraper at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, had to close after the bank found "extensive leaking" that posed immediate safety concerns. The bank has spent the past 10 months preparing to do the repair work, which has not yet begun, McGuinness said.

    Construction will include replacing all 37 drains on the plaza and caulking and waterproofing the stone pavers, said John Babieracki, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase. The bank will also replace many of the plaza's trees.
    The work could start as soon as this week and will finish sometime next spring, by May at the latest, Babieracki said.

    Once the construction is complete, the bank expects to reopen the plaza to the public, said Bill Viets, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase.
    "It is our intention to operate that plaza as it has traditionally been operated," Viets said.

    Unlike Zuccotti Park and other privately owned public spaces in Lower Manhattan, Chase Manhattan Plaza is not required by law to be open to the public — but many nearby residents said they thought of it as part of their backyard.

    David Colman, a Nassau Street resident for the past 15 years, said he walked his dog in the plaza daily and was so angry about its closure that he recently closed his accounts at Chase.
    "That plaza belongs to the community and the people in it and it deserves to be open," Colman told the JPMorgan Chase officials Thursday night.

    Several CB1 members questioned the bank's statement that the closure had nothing to do with Occupy Wall Street — especially since security guards at the plaza had told them the fences went up because of the protesters, not because of a waterproofing project.

    But the officials replied that they, like the community, want to see the plaza reopen as soon as possible.

    "We're as anxious as you are to get this work done," Babieracki said.

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/2012...#ixzz21EOlOqp8

  9. #54

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    Speaking publicly about the 700,000-square-foot plaza's closure for the first time this week, JPMorgan Chase officials denied that they shut down access to the open space in response to Occupy Wall Street, despite the fact that it happened a day before OWS protesters arrived in an attempt to move into the plaza last September.

    "It has nothing to do with that," Karen McGuinness, a vice president at JPMorgan Chase, told skeptical residents at Thursday night's Community Board 1 meeting.

    JPMorgan Chase officials said the plaza, which surrounds the bank's skyscraper at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, had to close after the bank found "extensive leaking" that posed immediate safety concerns. The bank has spent the past 10 months preparing to do the repair work, which has not yet begun, McGuinness said.

    Construction will include replacing all 37 drains on the plaza and caulking and waterproofing the stone pavers, said John Babieracki, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase. The bank will also replace many of the plaza's trees.
    The work could start as soon as this week and will finish sometime next spring, by May at the latest, Babieracki said.
    Right. Shutdown a day before the OWS move. The plaza was there for decades yet extensive leaking happened to occur so quickly that it caused immediate safety concerns requiring prompt shutdown. How unfortunate. It must have been some severe leakage, as it took them ten months just to prepare for the repairs. 10 months to repair 37 drains and fix some caulk. It will be such a monumental undertaking that it will be finished by next spring or next May - give or take, another ten months.

    Of course, the story seems entirely plausible, yet I still have some questions.
    1) What were the weather conditions ten months ago that prompted such sudden and severe leakage that caused the immediate emergency closure? What were the rainfall levels?
    2) How did the leak issue manifest itself? Surely major problems in such a popular public area, located above a massive underground concourse, could not have gone unnoticed by the thousands of people that use these premises on a daily basis. Have there been any reports of damage and/or discomfort, whether official or anecdotal?
    3) Since the plaza was so severely neglected that its leakage concerns prompted a near-overnight closure, how was the issue dealt with during the past ten months? Have any emergency measures been enacted to protect the employees from sustained water damage?
    4) Why is a financial organization as esteemed as Chase unable to afford a contractor that would fix an emergency situation on a more timely schedule that one that provides 20 months for emergency repairs on 37 drains?
    5) What prompted replacement of the trees? Is this issue related to the abovementioned emergency concerns regarding plaza waterproofing?

  10. #55
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    At the end of August 2011 Hurricane Irene came through. Our building suffered leaks & damage we'd never seen before (possibly exacerbated by the crazy earthquake one week earlier, which really moved our building in odd ways). So it's not out of the question that those occurrences wreaked some havoc at Chase Plaza.

    Still, the denial about OWS seems like bluster.

  11. #56
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Another Summer Nears Without Chase Manhattan Plaza

    By DAVID W. DUNLAP


    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times


    Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

    It took “both imagination and a sense of citizenship to clear an open plaza on some of the city’s most valuable land and to throw it open to the light of the sun — and to the public.”

    Those were the words of David Rockefeller, the president of Chase Manhattan Bank, when 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza opened in 1961. He was speaking about himself, but he happened to be right.

    Among the shadows of Lower Manhattan, there are few oases as inviting as 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, a landmark in every sense, including official. There is room to breathe, two and a half acres of it. There is reason to delight, in Jean Dubuffet’s monumental sculpture. There is opportunity to reflect, in the austere sunken sculpture court by Isamu Noguchi.

    At least there was until September 2011, when JPMorgan Chase, successor to Chase Manhattan, barricaded the plaza. The bank offered no explanation, though the move seemed clearly intended to foreclose any attempted takeover by the Occupy Wall Street movement. As the protesters’ presence diminished downtown, however, the plaza stayed closed. Some construction work occurred, on and off. Chase maintained its silence. And its barricades.

    Now, it seems almost certain that another summer will go by in which the public is deprived the use of the plaza. This would also mean the second cancellation of the popular Dine Around Downtown fair sponsored by the Downtown Alliance.

    The plaza is “an important amenity downtown,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, the chairwoman of Community Board 1 and a resident of the financial district. “It was a place of beauty where you could pass through and have a sense of relief and calm.” She said the plaza provided a vital east-west pedestrian route along the former line of Cedar Street, which was closed in 1956 from Nassau to William Streets to accommodate the Chase development.


    A view of the sculpture installation shows the size of the plaza.

    In 2012, after numerous approaches, bank officials sat down with community board members to explain the construction project. “We were told that the work would be completed this spring,” Ms. Hughes said. The board expects to get another update next month. “Hopefully, when Chase comes to the meeting, they’ll be telling us when the opening date is,” she said, “because we’re approaching the two-year closure point.”

    A bank spokeswoman remained vague about when the public might again be able to use the space. “Once construction is complete, we intend to operate the building in a way that makes the plaza available to the public for passive use and enjoyment, in accordance with appropriate rules,” the spokeswoman, Melissa Shuffield, said.

    JPMorgan Chase received approval in September 2010 from the Buildings Department for “waterproofing repairs to plaza areas.”


    Carl T. Gossett/The New York Times
    David Rockefeller, president of Chase Manhattan, with Mr. Dubuffet in 1972.
    Mr. Rockefeller said 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza was open to the public.


    The project is not simple. The plaza is directly over a spacious Chase bank branch. As a rule, plazas atop interior spaces pose challenges. They’re not merely flat roofs, with inherent drainage problems, but roofs on which hundreds walk each day. They’re bound to develop leaks. Water infiltration can be hard to trace if the roof extends two and a half acres and the site is battered by storms like Hurricane Sandy.

    Almost certainly complicating logistics and timetables is the facade repair project at the 20 Pine Street apartment tower, because it abuts and overlooks the plaza.

    Construction hurdles aside, the question remains whether the bank is obliged to keep 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza open.

    JPMorgan Chase & Company asserts that it is not. A memorandum of law filed by the bank last December in a related lawsuit stated: “Because 1CMP is private property, JPMC as its owner has the fundamental right, protected by the federal Constitution, to exclude the public from the plaza.” The plaza was built before the 1961 Zoning Resolution and the advent of privately owned public spaces, in which owners provide public access in return for benefits like being able to construct buildings larger than normally allowed.


    Manhattan Land Book (1934) The 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza block,
    outlined in red, used to be bisected by Cedar Street, at center.


    However, a compelling historical wrinkle appears in the records of the Board of Standards and Appeals, which granted the zoning variance needed by the bank to construct an 806-foot tower without setbacks. In its June 12, 1956, resolution, the board noted that “the building will only occupy 27.3 percent of the entire plot, leaving 72.7 percent for a plaza, which will afford light and air and room for relaxation for the applicant’s employees and for others in the area.”

    To Jerold S. Kayden, a professor of urban planning and design at Harvard and the author of “Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience” (2000), that suggests the bank did make a pledge, even if it was not legally binding.

    “The B.S.A. of the time may not have dotted every legal ‘i’ and crossed every legal ‘t,’” Mr. Kayden said, “but the intent of both bank and city is crystal clear. I hope JPMorgan Chase recognizes not only that it more or less promised a public plaza, but that it has provided a terrific, and now terribly missed, public space for more than 50 years. Your public is calling. My only request is, this summer, please.”


    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
    The plaza is a vision of tranquillity but, for now, beyond public reach.


    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...nhattan-plaza/

  12. #57
    Fearless Photog RoldanTTLB's Avatar
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    I'm glad I don't work next to this anymore, because it's miserable that it's closed. It was one of the few relatively open areas in the Financial District, and it was a pleasure to stand in and contemplate (especially while observing the Noguchi).

  13. #58
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Sale of a Landmark Building Reflects the Changing Needs of Lower Manhattan

    By CHARLES V BAGLI

    With Lower Manhattan in a deep slump during the 1950s, David Rockefeller made a pivotal but risky decision to build a massive new headquarters, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, in the heart of the city’s historic financial district.

    More than five decades later, JPMorgan Chase & Company is selling the landmark tower, on a 2.5-acre parcel bound by Nassau, Liberty, William and Pine Streets. Real estate executives say that the bank could choose a winning bidder as soon as this week, reaping as much as $700 million for the property.

    But just as Chase’s 60-story headquarters signaled Mr. Rockefeller’s optimism about the future of the downtown office market, its sale is also fraught with symbolism.

    The bidders — New York real estate operators, Asian investors and opportunistic developers — based their offers on converting the acres of office space at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza into condominiums, high-end rental apartments, a luxury hotel or a retail mall and, perhaps, even keeping it as an office building.

    Some urban planners, civic leaders and real estate executives say that turning this monument to financial capital into plush apartments or a chic hotel would indicate that the city’s second-largest business district, after Midtown, was losing cachet. Chase moved its headquarters to 270 Park Avenue in 1996.

    “Rockefeller’s decision to build Chase Manhattan Plaza sustained Lower Manhattan as an office market,” said Eric Deutsch, a former president of the Downtown Alliance, a business group founded by Mr. Rockefeller in 1958. “Today, it’s a struggle to sustain office buildings in the face of the unrelenting demand for residential properties.”

    But others, including the bank’s real estate brokers, say that the sale of 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza for a variety of uses, including office space, reflects the changing nature of Lower Manhattan since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. And with the city’s financial industry shedding office space, reimagining the plaza almost seems inevitable.

    The amount of office space downtown has fallen to 83 million square feet, from a high of 95 million square feet, as former office towers like the Woolworth Building are converted to expensive condominiums. Large blocks of vacant space are available at Brookfield Place, and with three office towers under construction at the World Trade Center, there is a lot of new space in need of tenants. And once JPMorgan Chase departs, the building will be 70 percent vacant.

    The marketing book given to bidders by the brokers Darcy Stacom and William Shanahan of CBRE reflects the changing nature of the area, suggesting that the tower is “perfect for both a new introduction as one of downtown’s best office buildings or one of its most prestigious residential addresses.”

    Since 2000, the residential population has increased 150 percent to 60,000, in a district that used to be a ghost town after 6 p.m. Retailers are thriving and hotels booming. Public transportation has improved. Once reliant on the financial industry, Lower Manhattan now embraces a diverse group of technology, media and law firms, as well as banks.

    JPMorgan Chase is eager to complete the sale before the end of the year, given its legal and financial problems: last week, it reported a third-quarter loss of $380 million. The bank agreed a month ago to pay $1 billion to settle government investigations into multibillion-dollar trading losses in 2012. In separate negotiations with the Justice Department over questionable mortgage practices, JPMorgan Chase recently offered to pay a fine of about $7 billion and provide billions of dollars in relief for affected homeowners.

    The notion of selling 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza came up this year, after the developer Steve Witkoff made an unsolicited $650 million offer, according to several bidders. Mr. Witkoff was considering converting the building to a mix of uses: expanded retail at the base, a boutique hotel in the middle and condominiums at the top.

    The bank decided to put the building on the auction block and hired the architects at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to assess the viability of converting the office space. (Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore designed the tower, which opened in 1961.)

    The auction initially attracted about a dozen bidders, including Mr. Witkoff; the developer Harry Macklowe; the investors Joseph Chetrit and David Bistricer; Tishman Speyer Properties; Boston Properties, which owns the G.M. Building in Midtown; Starwood Capital; L & L Holding; R X R Realty; and at least two wealthy Asian investment funds.

    Real estate executives said the bidders who were considering hotel and residential uses, which might generate the most profits, had to weigh the cost of installing operable windows and the uncertainty of getting approvals from city agencies like the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

    The first-round offers were submitted on Sept. 30, according to real estate executives. The bank set a $660 million minimum for the second and final round.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/ny...ttan.html?_r=0

  14. #59

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    The city should be positioning downtown as a tech hub. This building would be perfect for that, after a bit of an infrastructural sprucing up.

    This conversion of the financial district to residential is a bad idea.

  15. #60

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    Agreed. Isn't the major perk of living in the Financial District the ability to walk to work?
    If there are no companies....

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