Nosy Neighbor: Why is the plaza at 33 Thomas closed?

For a couple years folks have been asking why the plaza just east of 33 Thomas — the AT&T Long Lines building that is used by the NSA — has been closed to the public. From V. a year ago:

“Before covid, the public plaza was always open to the public, or at least during weekdays. Now it is permanently closed and only used for parking for the workers driving in from NJ et al (shouldn’t they pay to park like the rest of us?). Can you please look into this? No more outdoor space for walking, eating, sitting, pondering. Just seems like all that space by a corporate neighbor should be available!”

J. wrote to say that the plaza was created as a give-back for allowing the building — which was started in 1969 and completed in 1974 — to be as high as it is. “During the pandemic that space was closed off to the public and used as a private parking lot. A year or or so ago I asked two guys eating their lunch there why it was closed and they said so that workers during the pandemic could have parking spaces for their cars. Okay, but isn’t it now time to re-open that space to the public?”

Turns out it was never truly public, but just opened as a courtesy (which makes me wonder: why was a plaza ever created at all for a building designed for switching equipment and no humans?). This from the Department of City Planning press office: “This lot associated with 33 Thomas is a private plaza and is not part of NYC’s POPS program. While it does occasionally open to the public, there is no requirement for it to do so.”

I walked in last week when the gate was open and it is pleasant in there — leafy — but it is mostly a parking lot.

In 2016, The Intercept revealed the building to be a spy center for the National Security Agency:

An investigation by The Intercept indicates that the skyscraper is more than a mere nerve center for long-distance phone calls. It also appears to be one of the most important National Security Agency surveillance sites on U.S. soil—a covert monitoring hub that is used to tap into phone calls, faxes, and internet data.

Documents obtained by The Intercept from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden do not explicitly name 33 Thomas Street as a surveillance facility. However—taken together with architectural plans, public records, and interviews with former AT&T employees conducted for this article—they provide compelling evidence that 33 Thomas Street has served as an NSA surveillance site, code-named TITANPOINTE.

Inside 33 Thomas Street there is a major international “gateway switch,” according to a former AT&T engineer, which routes phone calls between the United States and countries across the world. A series of top-secret NSA memos suggest that the agency has tapped into these calls from a secure facility within the AT&T building. The Manhattan skyscraper appears to be a core location used for a controversial NSA surveillance program that has targeted the communications of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and at least 38 countries, including close U.S. allies such as Germany, Japan, and France.



  1. Speaking of public spaces that have been coopted as parking lots: the lovely, tree-lined cobblestone section of City Hall Park appears to have become a permanent parking lot for a few dozen city employees, rather than the public park for hundreds of pedestrians and local residents that it was designed to be.

    The abuse of public space – sidewalks, parks, crosswalks – by city employees (including police officers, who should be setting the example of law-abiding behavior) in this city is unbelievable.

    • I could not agree more. The closure of that space is a relic of 9/11 and Giuliani, and a real shame. There was a time when you could sit on the steps of City Hall and really feel a part of city government…

    • Doesn’t the article above say that this isn’t a public space after all?

  2. All the more reason for congestion pricing. You can park here, but you have to pay to enter!

  3. This is a shame. I also notice a lot of folks sitting at this location sitting on the retaining wall on the Worth Street side doing pot (it doesn’t smell great). If the plaza was open they could do it there!

    I would also add that the side walks along West Broadway between 6th Ave and Canal have also egregiously been co-opted for “free” city employee parking. Just a thought but maybe if City Employees had to take the subway the City might have more incentive to improve it.

  4. Speaking of cars lining streets that shouldn’t the park row bike lane is littered with private cars blocking both the sidewalk and the bike lane. Talk about contempt for the neighborhood that you police.

  5. Very scary to know the AT&T building is a NSA hub.

  6. on the thomas side where i have walked my dogs daily for years these delivry guys and no offense thugs screaming and yelling sit aroudn all day smocking cigs and weed and leave all their garbage all over. wak by anytime and you will see. these are not local residents which is ok and have no choice but just go by there or tell these at&t people to put out a garbabge can as signs like no loitering, etc will never work. most are from liquor store deliver guys on broadway smoking at work which no one seems to care about….i avoid this street most of time now…i am acutlaly curtious to know if the DOB or other city aganecies said they can keep it closed to public?

  7. What exactly is “NYC’s POPS program”?

  8. Also, it’s apparently not zoned to be a parking lot either. Which is now seems to be.