Chase Manhattan Plaza Still Fenced Off, Activists Call on Landmarks Commission To Act [UPDATE]

PaulaSegalChaseManhattanPlaza.jpg
#whOWNSpace colloborators Quilian Riano and Paula Segal want Chase Manhattan Plaza open to the public.
In this week's issue we wrote about the metal fencing that has surrounded Chase Manhattan Plaza for the past four months, and the efforts of public space activists to have the fencing removed.

Landmarks Commission spokeswoman Lisi DeBourbon told us last week the fencing is none of the Commission's business, because it is partly on wheels and therefore considered removable.

This week has brought further wrangling, as the open-space advocates and the Landmarks Preservation Commission argue over whether the owners are allowed to indefinitely surround an entire landmarked property with metal fencing without so much as a permit.

#whOWNSpace, the organization of public space advocates behind the campaign to reopen the plaza, has posted a response, citing the Landmarks Preservation Commission's own permit application form, which reads in part:

If an owner wishes to perform any work on a designated landmark or on a property in a designated historic district, he or she must obtain a permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission ("LPC") approving such work before carrying it out."

Even if the proposed changes will have "no effect on the protected architectural features," property owners still have to submit a permit application so the Landmarks Commission can determine that. JP Morgan Chase never filed an application.

But Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Lisi DeBourbon says the application presumes the work is meant to be a permanent improvement.

"Movable fences and other fixtures such as newspaper boxes, lawn furniture and potted plants, are not considered permanent improvements and therefore require no review by the LPC if an owner installs them," De Bourbon says.

But Richie Nagan, the Building Department expediter who first complained about the barriers at Zuccotti Park and alerted the National Lawyers Guild to the violations, disagrees.

"Actually a permit is issued by Landmarks" for a case like this, Nagan says, citing page 28 of the Guidelines and Materials Checklists for Performing Work on Landmarked Buildings, which says even "temporary installations" require a plan filed with the Commission and assurances that the installation will be removed on time.

De Bourbon disgrees, claiming that regulation only governs signs.

Paula Segal of #whOWNSpace says that may be Landmark's perspective, but it's not the end of the story.

"Landmark thinks it's made a final determination," she said this afternoon. "So it seems that we're in a position to appeal to a court."

UPDATE:

Landmarks Preservation Commission Spokeswoman Lisi DeBourbon wrote on January 30th with this addition:

I saw your story, and wanted to clarify something not so much for the purposes of a correction, but rather to explain the expediter's comment. LPC issues temporary installation permits are for the installation of fixtures that are attached to a landmark or landmarked site for a finite period of time. It doesn't just extend to banners and signs. Temporary does not refer to work we normally don't regulate, just the time period. Movable fences, scaffolding, etc. are not affixed or attached and therefore require no permit of any kind.

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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5 comments
Paula Z. Segal
Paula Z. Segal

http://whownspace.blogspot.com...

It's come to this: staff from the Landmarks Preservation Commission have told the Village Voice that the guarded fences at Chase Manhattan Plaza are not subject to the permitting process that other work on Landmarked properties is because the fences are not "affixed or attached." That seems a ridiculous technicality -- and one that Chase is taking advantage of! -- in light of the massive alteration of the architectural design that the unaffixed and unattached fences and the guards that accompany them have achieved. 

But all work on Landmarks needs to be approved by the Commission to make sure that it is "appropriate and do[es] not detract from the special character of the city's landmarks and historic districts."

  We need to engage the hierarchy and get the attention of the chief Landmark-Preserver. Today, let's occupy Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert B. Tierney's inbox. This direct action is easy, and doesn't even involve getting a stamp. Follow these steps:

1. Point your browser here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/h...

2. From the first drop-down, select "Complaint"

3. Enter your email address.

4. Cut and paste the message below into the Message box:

Fences and guards have surrounded Chase Manhattan Plaza (CMP, 26 Nassau Street) for over four months now, inhibiting all public access. CMP is a designated Landmark. From the 2009 Designation Report: “The plaza was intended to be one of the project’s most dramatic and distinctive features. It …functions as an elegantly minimal forecourt or… a 'front yard…The south plaza’s most conspicuous feature is Isamu Noguchi’s “Sunken Garden"... this unique sculptural work was commissioned for public view… it was designed to be viewed from the plaza..." Landmarks staff have indicated Chase did not need to demonstrate that the fences would not interfere with the landmark through a permitting process because they are not "attached." Although they are held down with sandbags, not bolts, their effect is to inalienably alter the character of this Landmarked public plaza. Both the “front yard” and the historic sculpture have been inaccessible since September.

5. Submit.

6. When you receive an acknowledgement of receipt in your inbox, forward it to us at occupynycdob@gmail.com. We want to know just how occupied Mr. Tierney's inbox gets.

#occupyDOB #occupyLandmarks

Lisi de Bourbon
Lisi de Bourbon

De Bourbon didn't give a complete response. Here it is: LPC issues temporary installation permits are for the installation of fixtures that are attached to a landmark or landmarked site for a finite period of time. It doesn’t cover only banners and signs. Temporary does not refer to work we normally don’t regulate, just the time period.

Richie Shakin' Nagan
Richie Shakin' Nagan

It most certainly does include things other than signs.  De Bourbon lies:

Temporary InstallationsA temporary installation is defined as an installation for sixty(60) days or less for signs andbanners and one (1) calendar year or less for other temporary installations.The duration of any temporary installation will be specified in the permit letter.

Richie Shakin' Nagan
Richie Shakin' Nagan

I filed a complaint with Landmarks last week and will follow up on Monday.  I also filed complaints with DOB which they dismissed erroneously and sent an email to that effect to the First Deputy Commissioner.  I will be following upon that on Monday as well.

Richie Shakin' Nagan
Richie Shakin' Nagan

Lisi DeBourbon is full of shit.  It clearly states that it includes all temporary installations.

Temporary InstallationsA temporary installation is defined as an installation for sixty(60) days or less for signs andbanners and one (1) calendar year or less for other temporary installations.The duration of any temporary installation will be specified in the permit letter.

Page 28 of http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/do...

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