Chase Manhattan Plaza has been continuously closed since September 15, 2011. At first, guards keeping the public out of the popular financial district lunch hang out told those who asked that the fences were “Because of Occupy Wall Street.” Then, suddenly the plaza was approved for waterproofing work that had been applied for in 2010. On February 27, 2012, workers arrived, pulled up stones, and set up construction cones. Since then, as the Village Voice reported last Friday, all has been quiet.
Concerned New Yorker and Department of Buildings expert Richard Nagan, a partner in Nagan Ex, Inc., decided to find out what the scope of the approved work was – just how long could we anticipate this favorite spring and summer hang out would be off limits? But his request for the plans was met with a blanket denial by the Department of Buildings. The plans would not be made available unless Nagan got the permission of the building owners. The Department of Buildings claimed disclosing plans for surface waterproofing work without permission from Chase, the bank that has been keeping the public off the plaza for the last six months, would somehow be a danger to life or safety.
Today, Nagan Ex., Inc., represented by Rankin & Taylor, PLLC, filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit in New York Supreme Court for disclosure of the plans.
“The Bloomberg Administration is committed to making oversight of construction easy and transparent and that is right and just,” said Nagan. “The public has a right to know. Hiding from public view plans that clearly cannot in any way endanger anything is wrong and illegal and makes one wonder what they are trying to hide.”
The importance of the 2 ½ acre plaza to the fabric of life in lower Manhattan cannot be understated. Design of the plaza necessitated de-mapping a public street and turning the previously public throughway over to the private owner. The Planning Commission approved this de-mapping based on the benefits the plaza promised. When its construction was completed and the plaza opened in May 1961, the New York Times praised Chase for “bringing space, sunlight and beauty” to the city’s “stern, forbidding financial district.” See Landmark’s Preservation Commission Designation Report for Chase Manhattan Plaza (Febraury 10, 2009).
Space, sunlight and beauty continue to be important.
“Public space in Lower Manhattan is vital to the civic life of New York City. For downtowners and our families, people eating lunch and as a geographic focal-point for our civic discourse,” says Paul Newell, Democratic District Leader for Lower Manhattan’s 64th Assembly District.
Press Inquiries Contact: Paula Z. Segal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Pinto, JP Morgan Chase’s Life-And-Death Secret Waterproofing Plan, Village Voice Running Scared Blog (March 27, 2012), http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/03/jp_morgan_chase.php