'Charging Bull' to Broad St.? CB1 Committee Slams the City's Proposal

Department of Transportation rendering shows the proposed siting of "Charging Bull" outside 20 Broad Street, 2 to 3.4 feet from the sidewalk.  

May. 22, 2020

UPDATE: At its May 26 meeting, the full community board overwhelmingly voted to adopt the Waterfront, Parks and Cultural Committees resolution on “Charging Bull.”

“Charging Bull” won’t be hoofing it to Broad Street, if a Community Board 1 committee has its way.

CB1’s Waterfront, Parks and Cultural Committee on Tuesday roundly rejected the city’s proposal to move the 7,000-pound tourist magnet from its 30-year home next to Bowling Green to a site just to the south of the New York Stock Exchange, which is paying for the reinstallation.

Officials say the mob of visitors to the Arturo Di Modica statue, some spilling onto Broadway, create an unsolvable safety problem and provide a tempting target for terrorists. “People are putting themselves at risk because they’re just overwhelming the physical space despite the city’s best efforts to try to provide some security infrastructure,” Ed Pincar, the Department of Transportation’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner, told the committee at its remote meeting. 

By relocating “Charging Bull” within the Stock Exchange security zone, Pincar said, “we no longer have to worry about the conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians, as we do on Broadway. This is just a fundamentally safer site.”

Two vehicle attacks in 2017, including the one on the Hudson River Park bikeway that killed eight people, had heightened the city’s concerns. “Charging Bull is basically a symbol of the American economy, which is one of the motivating reasons for the attacks on 9/11, and other attacks in the United States,” said Sgt. Martin Wingert of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division, which supports the move.

But the committee viewed the city’s chosen site, 2 to 3.4 feet from the sidewalk outside 20 Broad Street and near other residential buildings, as a poor alternative. And they questioned whether officials had done all they could to figure out a way to safely maintain the statue’s current location.

“The statue belongs where it is, with the leafy background of the park behind it,” said committee member and landscape architect Laura Starr, noting that there are “all kinds” of security barriers used around the city that could make the area safe.

On Broad Street, she argued, “It’s like it’s in the middle of no man’s land. And it’s really ugly.”

“It’ll go from Charging Bull to lost bull,” said Marc Ameruso, another committee member. “He looks like he doesn’t know what to do.”

Nearly a dozen residents of 15 Broad Street, a building opposite the proposed site, spoke out against the plan. They fear that crowds drawn to the bull will make the street unsafe, attract food carts and other vendors, and kill property values.

“This is going to destroy our quality of life,” said Linda Gerstman, a 15 Broad Street resident.

Then there is the matter of the artist’s opposition to the move. In a letter to Mayor de Blasio and other city officials in February, Di Modica claimed the city does not have the authority to move his statue because it doesn’t own it. “I have only approved and will only approve the continued display of Charging Bull on the north plaza of Bowling Green Park as is,” Di Modica wrote.

Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Assn. and the artist’s authorized representative, said during the meeting that under its Charter, “the city only has the right to move a work of art from one location to another if it in fact, owns it.”

“The fact that the New York Stock Exchange is paying for it is an implicit concession that this has to operate extralegally and not through the normal DOT and Parks Department channels,” local preservationist Todd Fine, a leading opponent of the move, added.

Pincar didn’t explain the city’s legal position, but said, “We’ve worked very closely with the administration, including the Law Department, to make sure that this was within our rights to do and we believe it is.”

The proposed move is due to go before the city’s Public Design Commission for approval on June15. 

Under cover of night on Dec. 22, 1989, Di Modica hauled “Charging Bull” onto Broad Street, leaving  it in front of the New York Stock Exchange, close to where the city now wants to put it. Exchange officials didn’t take kindly to the gift, and had it removed. Later, in an agreement with Di Modica, the city installed the statue on the Bowling Green plaza, where it has been ever since.

After the “Fearless Girl” statue arrived in the plaza in 2017, the confined space became even more tourist heavy. That was too much for Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, who unsuccessfully called for the two works to be moved south to a wider and safer section of the plaza. (“Fearless Girl” was later moved to Broad Street near the Stock Exchange.)

“The bottom line is you have a pretty large space here and everything is pushed to the northernmost end—the narrowest piece—for no good reason,” Lappin said back then. 

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Downtown Alliance declined to comment on the city’s proposed move of “Charging Bull,” or whether the Alliance’s previous proposal would be a suitable option today. But some members of the community board committee said it was worth considering. Tammy Meltzer suggested moving the bull to the southern end of the plaza and “opening the back of Bowling Green Park so it becomes seamless with the triangle.”

Pincar insisted that location and many others were among a “laundry list” of sites that the city explored and rejected, often because of conflicts with underground utilities. “We definitely invested time and resources into seeing what is possible,” he said.

The committee’s resolution, to be voted on by the full board on May 26, both rejected the proposed Broad Street location and called on the DOT to try to find a way to safely keep the bull on or close to its current spot.

The committee did not opine on the question, posed by the DOT, on which end of the bull should face the Exchange: head or hind quarters.

“I guess that depends on your politics,” committee member Alice Blank mused.