BNY Mellon seeks to eliminate the public lobby space at 240 Greenwich

The Bank of New York Mellon has been working with the city to redesign the pedestrian experience around its building at 240 Greenwich (Murray to Barclay) and has a plan to reimagine the sad little sunken area on the corner at West Street as a public plaza — and the plans look great. But at the same time the bank is also trying to eliminate public access to its lobby — since 1980 an official privately owned public space — and in kind of a sneaky way if you ask me.

So there’s a lot to unpack here, and there’s a deadline too: the City Planning Commission will make a decision on this application on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 1p. The presentations to both the CPC and CB1 have made this seem like an exchange — the outdoor space for the indoor POPS. But this is and should not be a trade, and the bank’s reasons for eliminating the indoor POPS are specious. They should absolutely improve the plaza, AND ALSO keep the lobby as a public space. It is clearly listed as POPS on City Planning’s own site, and the lobby is designated as a public easement with 24-hour access.

 

Here’s their plan in bullet points (I listened to the Jan. 4 CPC meeting and the Jan. 21 CB1 meeting):
> remove the reference to a public lobby on the ground floor as a minor modification to the building’s special permit from 1980
> enhance the sidewalks on Greenwich and Murray with plantings and seating
> redesign the plaza on the southeast corner West and Murray streets to add trees and seating
> eliminate the Citi Bike dock currently there

So let’s start at the beginning. The lot was originally part of the Washington Street Urban Renewal Area (above) from 1960. In 1980, the city leased the site to Irving Trust Company, which built the building we see now — 23 stories and nearly 1 million square feet by Skidmore Owings & Merrill. At that time the CPC approved a special permit for height and setback waivers – and designated the lobby as a public area and also anticipated a public walkway going north-south on the second floor, along with bridges that would span both Barclay and Murray and connect to the buildings to the north and south. In 1989, CPC eliminated both bridges from the plan with the plans for 7 WTC.

BNY Mellon moved to the building in 2002. Then, in 2018, the bank purchased the land under the building from the city and that summer moved global headquarters to 101 Barclay, or 240 Greenwich. They are now rebranding the headquarters at 240 Greenwich with a grander entrance. At that time the lobby, which had been closed to the public after 9/11, was reopened, but not without a lot of pushback from the bank.

In this application, the bank claims that the public lobby, which is clearly on the drawings, was never really part of the plan — that a north-south public access on the second floor was the public amenity. But it is in the special permit language as such, with drawings to prove it.

So the question is: if they claim the lobby is not public, what about that second floor space (in drawing above)? That is issue #1. The bank should NOT be allowed to eliminate that POPS and instead the bank should be required to enhance it, and at the same time, make it more inviting.

Now, back to the streetscape (with images below):
> the sidewalk space will appear to double, since the building is already set back from its lot line
> the crosswalks will be expanded in cooperation with DDC and DOT
> the north-south thru block driveway will be maintained for vehicles
> the sidewalks will have planting beds against the building plus seating nooks
> there will be bollards all along the site to “enhance the pedestrian experience”

The new Alexander Hamilton Place — named for the bank’s founder — adds up to 23,000 feet and will feature a diagonal path from Murray to West, with an undulating seat wall that meanders through the plaza with moveable chairs and tables in addition. They will add to the current trees for a total of 48, plus include bike racks and a drinking fountain.

One last issue: the bank plans to eliminate the Citi Bike dock and while we may have no say here since it’s private property, this should be reconsidered. With the consternation over the dock at Duane Street, and the city’s efforts to expand the bikes across the neighborhood, BNY Mellon should preserve this station at least at some size.

 

8 Comments

  1. Does Mellon own the dc-37 building, or the land outside of it? Why would Mellon have a say in the citibikes, which should definitely not go. There’s 4 residential buildings along the east side of west street between barclay and chambers that use these bikes without crossing west street. There’s nothing else really close.

    Also there’s already a public space across the street from this proposed project at 111 Murray street. This outdoor area, which looks haphazard doesn’t really seem to accomplish much. Also BONY is always very adamant about it being private property and are very unfriendly to passers by (as evident by never letting anyone inside the POPS). They also say no one is allowed inside the planters currently, will this be same case potentially, this time using the bollards?

    Too bad about the areas that are clearly defined for parking of vehicles, government vehicles along Greenwich, and tour buses along Barclay. The tour buses always block the crosswalks and signs making it very dangerous to cross as a pedestrian.

    Does the public have any say in this? BONY/Mellon has been very local unfriendly and this appears to make it more of the same, if not worse. I wonder if they actually own the dc-37 site and or the land around it, and what are the plans for that recently cleared out structure, is this related somehow?

    As a local, this looks like a hard no thanks. We already have 111 Murray as an outdoor space, and since BONY took over, they’ve never done what they said they would for the public, no reason to believe them now.

  2. As an employee of this building the last thing I want is somebody coming in that I do not know With all the people in New York City that are around, some lunatics, people offf their meds, ,people carrying diseases, why should employees at work every single day have to be subjected to this. There’s plenty of other places in the area you can go sit and take the sun and get your coffee and read a book.

    • why? because that was what the building agreed to for other concessions in their building. if they dont want those people (with diseases! oh no, how can you even commute to work in such a city!), then they shouldnt have agreed to it way back when. not very hard to understand

  3. How about a counter proposal? If they stop allowing access to the POPS, they are not allowed to use the bonus square footage they were granted, subject to regular inspections?

    They, more than most buildings, have been bad actors.

    Long before the pandemic they closed off the interior space to neighborhood people and were downright hostile to anyone trying to even look at it through their windows. Their security staff would come up to you and try to intimidate you to go away. This happened to me when I was photographing their sign in the window after Erik did a story about them.

    How dare they!

    This is yet another bait and switch that has come to characterize POPS. Either they are undeveloped, or as is happening on Water Street, being reclaimed by the building who got the bonus. Creating an outdoor space, while nice, is simply not the same. If nothing else, it cannot be a place of year-round respite.

    They should be forced to adhere to what they agreed to at the time their plans were approved. It would be great if they would improve the outdoor space, but it’s not an either/or.

  4. This is the ugliest office building in downtown. It’s an unmaintained eyesore (facade is filthy and hasn’t been cleaned in years) and I’d be embarrassed to be the owner of this place. They should fix the whole thing out of self-respect, they have enough money and shouldn’t be asking for concessions when they already do the bare minimum and keep people out of the public space anyway

  5. They should focus on mitigating the grisly stench that has emanated from that corner spot for years…

  6. why? because that was what the building agreed to for other concessions in their building. if they dont want those people (with diseases! oh no, how can you even commute to work in such a city!), then they shouldnt have agreed to it way back when. not very hard to understand

  7. I have worked in the DC 37 building for 30 years. The BONY is very unfriendly. Briefly you could get coffee in the lobby, pre-9/11. I tried to go to a blood drive there, you would have thought I was one of those disease carrying folks referenced above. The guards are unfriendly. Our guards are very friendly, allow construction workers to use our 1st floor bathrooms and our canteen. Now we are getting renovated and will be back in 2023. I use the citibike racks there. Remember when they tried to boot out one of the cart vendors because of their sidewalk sheds? They should be required to hold up their end of the deal. Make their security on the second floor and the lobby public. They won’t need as much office space now.

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