Will Winter Garden's Grand Stairs Be Destroyed, Yet Again?
By Matt Dunning
For workers, tourists and those who just want a place to gaze upon the Winter Garden,
the marble staircase is one of the most popular public spaces in the World Financial Center.
The grand marble staircase of the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, rebuilt with exquisite care after its destruction on Sept. 11, 2001, may be destroyed again—this time a victim of the World Trade Center’s rebuilding.
Brookfield Properties, owners of the World Financial Center and Winter Garden, may plan to remove the staircase to accommodate the western entrance to the pedestrian tunnel connecting the Winter Garden with the new World Trade Center transportation hub. The proposal, first reported by Crain’s in January, has not yet been released to the public. But members of Community Board 1 want to know what Brookfield is contemplating for the imposing staircase.
According to Yume Kitase, CB1’s Community Liaison, a Brookfield executive has agreed to meet with the board’s Battery Park City Committee next month to discuss the tunnel’s potential impact on the Winter Garden, including the grand staircase.
“We’ve extracted out of Brookfield a promise that they’ll come to us in July, and we’re hopeful that they’ll stick to it,” Kitase said.
Melissa Coley, Brookfield’s Vice President of Investor Relations and Communications, would not say if the company was planning to demolish the staircase or when its plans might be made public, only that the company is still in the “planning phases.”
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing specific to report,” Coley said. “We’re not quite there yet, but we hope to be soon.”
A girl eats a snack on the Winter Garden's staircase.
Today, visitors climb the staircase to reach the expanse of windows that overlook the Trade Center site. It is also frequently used as event seating during performances, as well as a popular backdrop for photographs. Over time, some Battery Park City residents said they’ve also come to think of the staircase a symbol of Lower Manhattan’s resilience in the aftermath of the attacks.
“That staircase, for me, has become a memorial,” Battery Park City Committee Chairwoman Linda Belfer said at the committee's meeting on Tuesday, June 1. “It’s a monument to what happened that day, and I think it would be terrible if we were to lose it.”
Belfer said Community Board 1 sent a letter to the Department of City Planning, which the board believes would need to sign off on Brookfield’s plan, asking that the department not render a final decision on the matter without first consulting them.
“We just want to let them know how we feel about it,” Belfer said. “I’ve asked that...they come to no final decision until they come before us and hear what we have to say.”