New towers coming to Thomas and Worth streets?

Crain’s reported this first, for the record, but I have now read the application at City Planning myself: AT&T has applied to the city to develop what they say is a public plaza (though right now it is a private parking lot) behind its famed Long Lines Tower between Thomas and Worth, Church and Broadway, into two residential towers — one on Worth at 20 stories, and one on Thomas at 15 stories — plus a new public plaza. Yes, this is next to the giant brick NSA spy tower that has no windows.

I’ve included a ton of their drawings and renderings, but keep in mind that this is a proposal for a zoning change, not an actual project. If the change goes through, the eventual developer could build a completely different project.

So the details: AT&T is asking the city for a special permit to develop 66,000 square feet of the plaza just east of the building, calling it 33 Thomas Street, as well as a new public plaza on the site, which is actually three zoning lots. That would get them:

  • Overall 111,744 gross square foot (GSF) mixed residential and commercial building
  • Residential: 102,162 GSF
  • Commercial: 9,583 GSF
  • Two residential towers above a one-story retail base connecting each tower
  • Worth Street: one 21-story, 210-foot-tall tower
  • Thomas Street: one 15-story 137.5-foot-tall towers
  • Retail base for both streets: one 13-foot-tall story
  • Two residential towers would be separated by 60 feet
  • Public Plaza: 9,472 square foot through-block
  • 79 market rate units

No change is proposed to the Long Lines Building.

Now here is the curious thing: a couple years ago, after some prompting from neighbors, I asked EVERYONE about that plaza: AT&T (no reply); the Municipal Art Society (because they track POPS, or privately owned public spaces); and finally the Department of City Planning, which told me this: “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.”

So it is not a POPS now, but it was designed as one and from what I can tell, no one enforced it. A special permit was issued in 1967 to allow the height of the Long Lines Building to reach up to 535 feet with no setbacks, casting Worth and Thomas into shadow. AT&T’s application then goes on: “he remainder of the Project Area was developed as a privately owned public plaza. While the plaza complied with the 1961 plaza design requirements… building plans indicate that the plaza was not utilized to generate floor area for the AT&T Building when it was constructed, even though plaza bonus calculations were included on the plans. The plaza is not currently designated a Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) by DCP.”

And here’s the ridiculous part: the developer would be able to take a bonus for the new public plaza they are creating: “The public plaza would provide a bonus of 56,832 sf (6 sf of bonus commercial floor area per 1 sf public plaza provided) to the total commercial floor area of the Project Area.” Nuts.

Oh, one more ridiculous part: their proposal shows the development hard against the back windows of the buildings facing the plaza now, with the new plaza to the west. Makes no sense. Why would the new residents want to look at a brick wall, rather than look east? And why wouldn’t you want the public space between the old and new residential buildings?

If these plans advance, the new public plaza “would provide a more attractive open space by complying to the most up-to-date POPS design standards set by the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP). The new public plaza would be open to the public 24 hours a day with unobstructed entrances on Thomas Street and Worth Street and would feature a continuous circulation path, well-designed planting areas, trees, fixed and movable seating, bicycle racks, drinking fountains, and litter receptacles.”

AT&T guesses that the build year could be 2026 in consideration of a 12-month environmental approval process, a 7-month ULURP process, and an 18-month construction schedule.



  1. This is infuriating. It is grand theft of a PARK (which has long been used as a private parking lot for the thieves! It wasn’t enough to take what little green space the area has. Now they want to extend their fraud skyward. This should result in people going to jail. I would love to see a perp walk for the people pushing this.

    • So people are upset about replacing a parking lot with housing and a public park? Ok.

      I don’t see how this can’t be viewed positively. The neighborhood needs more housing – especially in transit rich locations. This block is also a bit rough and redeveloping the site will help in that regard.

      To be clear this space is not currently a public park. As TCitizen notes “a special permit was issued in 1967 to allow the height of the Long Lines Building to reach up to 535.” I don’t know the details but as 33 Thomas Street is an NSA site, I’m pretty sure that National Security trumped whatever NYC zoning laws that existed.

      • It was built for AT&T. My issue is not against housing for that site; it’s that they they are double dipping with special permits to build outside the zoning code all for private benefit.

  2. Re: “And why wouldn’t you want the public space between the old and new residential buildings?”

    Because it is not possible. There is probably underground AT&T equipment and facilities under the proposed public space that AT&T wants to retain and cannot sell to a developer to use as a basement for typical below-ground residential facilities and utilities.

    Per DOB job 140933532, the tax lot comprising the Long Lines building and the open space was split into 3 tax lots in 2021.


    One is now the Long Lines Building, one is the area below grade under the proposed public space, and one is the area above grade at the proposed public space plus the entire height and depth of the area where the new buildings are proposed.

    Rearranging the public space would constrain the proposed buildings to use only the east portions of the below-grade space of the proposed building areas as their basements. As a result, the layouts of the proposed new buildings would be constrained by the limits that would impose on the placement of elevator pits as the base of elevator shafts, riser pipes, etc.

    • Thanks, James! I did think the application said something about being able to build on top of the underground tax lot…

  3. How do we make a formal complaint and protest this?

  4. Just what we don’t need. These little “parks” that developers offer as a carrot mean nothing. Walk past the 105 Duane “park” and rarely will you see anyone sitting in it.

  5. Both this city and neighborhood (and the country generally) need to build much much much much much more housing. I’m in favor of any project that does so. This is an otherwise wasted private space that will provide more housing and public space. I see it as a positive. I’m not sure i understand what’s “ridiculous” or “nuts” about gaining square footage in exchange for public space, or windows “facing a brick wall” (like most apartments in a big city?). My only critique would be that 79 market rate units seems like it’s not enough. Double that, and now we’re talkin.

  6. Here’s a very cheap, easy, fast way to add a new public park downtown: unlock those gates. There are actually already “litter receptacles” in place! Occasionally a group of skateboarders do this on Sunday afternoons, so it must be possible.

    Or – tear up the earth, mine and transport materials, damage nearby buildings and utilities, shutdown Thomas and Worth for another couple years, etc etc. For 79 apartments and a small shady alley city folk call a “park”? Probably more bang for your buck in say, Elizabeth St Garden…