Nosy Neighbor: What’s Happening to This Building on Vestry?

Do you know why this building at Canal and Vestry is being covered in metal? —N.

A rep for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns 4-10 Vestry and uses it as the Holland Tunnel Emergency Garage, is “installing an exterior billboard as a way to generate revenue from advertising for our transportation program.”

The next logical question is whether the organization is allowed to do such a thing, since the building falls within the Tribeca North Historic District. The answer is yes, because the Landmarks Preservation Commission has no authority over the Port Authority.

A side note: When I ran this by James, he pointed out that buildings owned by New York State are subject to the New York State Historic Preservation Act of 1980, Section 14.09. “Most, if not all, New York City Landmarks are either listed on the State Register or eligible for listing, so I doubt this would have passed muster here if the building were state-owned (and not owned by the Port Authority),” he said.

Above right is a photo taken by Google Maps last September. And here’s the summary about 4-10 Vestry from the LPC’s designation report:

This four-story, triangular-shaped office building, located at the eastern end of the block, has approximately ninety-foot facades on Vestry Street and Canal Street. Five small buildings at the eastern end of the block were demolished in 1925 in conjunction with the widening of Canal Street and Varick Street prior to the construction of the Holland Tunnel. The building was designed by Erling Dure for the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission in 1926; Dure also designed the tunnel ventilation buildings.

The building has a one-story granite-faced base which on the Canal Street facade has segmentally-arched windows with industrial steel sash. The round-archway in the angled corner bay has a multi-light bronze door in a bronze surround with “The Holland Tunnel” inscribed on the lintel. The Vestry Street base has a variety of openings, including three vehicular bays with segmentally-arched heads. The upper facades of patterned brown brick are divided by wide and narrow pilasters into single window bays terminated by limestone corbel tables. The roofline is a series of setbacks, edged with limestone bands, which culminate in a brick penthouse with a limestone parapet.  The windows have four-over-four industrial sash. The building remains in use at the Holland Tunnel Administration Building.

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  1. Is that metal opaque when viewed from the inside looking out? Or is it like those bus decals where it looks opaque from outside but from the inside looking out its not as opaque as one would think.

    • I don’t think it’s transparent at all.

      • eek…not much fun for the Port Authority staff working inside.

        • Not like we turn towards the Holland tunnel exit lanes for “views” but is this what we need… i.e. Yet ANOTHER reason to “hate” New Jersey? (If the Holland tunnel were not enough)

          Are those offices behind the metal screen actually occupied?
          At least we can gain some satisfaction from knowing a grossly overpaid heavy desk jockey lost his view..

          That will be so ridiculously sad and silly to see…

  2. Really Port Authority? You need the $? Damn.

    • Yes, they really do need the money.

      “A detailed report of what Port Authority police earn, compared with what neighboring police departments earn (prepared by the Citizens Budget Commission, a New York City–based public watchdog group), concluded in late 2012 that the Port Authority Police Department, then about 1,700 strong, was already one of the country’s largest and most richly compensated law-enforcement units. At the time, the commission estimated that payments to police constituted about $372 million of the Port Authority’s $406 million public-safety budget. Within New York and New Jersey, only the Nassau and Suffolk County police were paid more. Port Authority senior officers received hourly pay 25 percent to 48 percent above that of senior officers at neighboring municipal police forces. Excluding overtime, pensions, and health benefits, average salaries for rank-and-file police topped $108,157 after six years of service and rose to $117,884 in their 25th year. And unlike officers in New Jersey, Port Authority police don’t contribute to their health insurance, a benefit that can add an amount comparable to 50 percent of their base salaries to their compensation, the CBC reported.

      “Supplemental pay made compensation disparities even more pronounced. Port Authority police earned from as much as 14 times the compensation of Jersey City cops to double that of senior NYPD officers. Senior Port Authority police earned 23 percent more than federal agents, and between 32 percent and 57 percent more than New York and New Jersey state troopers. Yet Port Authority police worked fewer hours a year than officers in other police forces, with more days off and shorter tours.

      “A consistent factor in this pay gap, according to an analysis of Port Authority compensation between 2008 and 2014 obtained by Open the Books, a watchdog group pressing for greater government transparency, is overtime. ‘Overtime work for police at Port Authority has been out of control for years,’ says Adam Andrzejewski, the group’s founder. Overtime costs at the agency over the past seven years have averaged roughly $300,000 a day, $2 million a week, and more than $100 million a year, much of that earned by the police. City Journal’s Steven Malanga describes a typical example, culled from Open the Books data. Thanks largely to overtime sweeteners provided by the Port Authority, one police lieutenant who retired in 2013 with an annual salary of $129,000 began collecting the following year a lifetime pension of $172,000, or one-third above his base pay. […] According to the Open the Books database, public-safety employees are extremely well compensated, even within Port Authority ranks. Between 2008 and 2014, seven of the top 15 most highly compensated Authority employees worked in security: three police sergeants, two police lieutenants, and two rank-and-file police officers. Their total compensation—which includes base pay, overtime, comp-time cash-in, longevity bonus, shift-differential payments, time-off pay, unspecified retro-payments and one- time payments, FICA pickup payments, and ‘all other payments’—ranged from $324,000 to $403,000.”

  3. One reason this shouldn’t be legal is that its directly above and within view from the Holland Tunnel Approach, which is considered a registered Arterial Highway. Advertising signs within 900 feet and visible from an Arterial Highway are tightly regulated and can only be sized one square foot per linear foot of distance from the sign to the highway. I’d think this will rack up a violation immediately.

    • I doubt this will get any violation.

      DOB enforces the NYC zoning resolution. The arterial highway and advertising rules are part of the NYC zoning resolution. Port Authority is outside the jurisdiction of NYCDOB and the NYC zoning resolution.

  4. Tribeca North is not listed on the National Register. However, I would think that as the PA is a joint governmental agency, authorized by Congress, that it would be subject to the state historic preservation laws. But perhaps there is a loophole here.