Proposed Subway Elevators Near Stock Exchange Raise Residents' Fears

Rendering by Urbahn Architects of the proposed subway elevator bulkhead for the J and Z lines, to be located in front of 15 Broad Street. 

Jan. 02, 2018

What looks like a good deal for a mega-developer and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has potentially frightening consequences for people living in two buildings near the New York Stock Exchange.

That’s the claim by residents of 15 and 30 Broad Street, who are angry about a proposal for new subway elevators to be installed in front of their buildings, on diagonal corners of Broad and Exchange Place.

By paying for the installation of the elevators Madison Equities, the developer of nearby 45 Broad Street, would be allowed more square footage for their tower. At 1,115 feet 45 Broad is slated to be the tallest residential building in Lower Manhattan. The new elevators, with their accompanying glass structures, would provide handicap access to the Broad Street station of the J and Z lines and, by underground connection, the Wall Street station’s 4 and 5 lines.

Last month, opponents submitted to Community Board 1 an online petition signed by some 270 residents of 15 and 30 Broad Street who oppose the “dangerous structures.” They say the elevators would give a bomb-carrying terrorist a tempting entry into the secured area around the Stock Exchange that has been part of a “frozen zone” since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“We’re forbidden from placing planters in front of our building because we were told they would become shrapnel in the event of an explosion,” Linda Gerstman, vice president of the 15 Broad Street board of directors, said at a December meeting of Community Board 1’s Land Use, Zoning and Economic Development Committee. “Now the city wants to let a developer place a giant glass structure at our doorstep.”

Madison Equities is seeking a “bonus” from the City Planning Commission that would add more floors to their building by reducing the currently approved floor heights. The building itself would not get bigger. The tower is in a district where that special permit is allowed only through improvements to an adjacent subway station. The City Planning Commission is due to vote on the application following a 60-day comment period and CB 1 will be weighing in.

The M.T.A. identified a “critical need” for handicap access to the stations as well as changes to the Wall Street station’s turnstiles that will get passengers in and out faster, according to Nat Barranco of Urbahn Architects, the firm that is designing the subway improvements. Fewer than one in four subway stations are handicap accessible. The closest one to the Broad Street station is the next stop north, six blocks and 1,800 feet away at Fulton Street, which Barranco called “a bit of a hike if you’re in a wheelchair.” Critics said it’s close enough.

Asked at the meeting why an elevator couldn’t be placed in front of the 45 Broad Street building, Barranco said underground utilities made other sites unworkable. But the residents remained unconvinced.

“You’re getting a very substantial benefit by putting that elevator in front of my building and affecting the value of my building and affecting the aesthetics of one of the most iconic views in New York City,” a 15 Broad Street resident shouted. “And your building’s not suffering the burden!”

“Having these elevators you have to believe that people coming in and out of the area will not necessarily get screened,” argued Gal Natel, also of 15 Broad, who said her car is routinely checked by security when she drives home.

“Unfortunately, if somebody wants to walk in the street carrying a bomb around their body, they don’t need the elevator,” Barranco replied.

Before issuing a resolution on the elevators, the Land Use Committee asked the applicant to return to its next meeting, on Jan. 8, after consulting with the NYPD about the safety concerns. “That’s a big issue,” said committee chair Patrick Kennell, “that may sway some folks in their thinking on this.”

Located in the Street Plan of the New Amsterdam and Colonial New York Historic District, the proposed 13-foot-high structures were approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2016, despite opposition from Community Board 1, which said they would “destroy the historic long-time view corridors” of Broad Street.



There must be a better, and less costly, solution

I think security questions being raised by community residents deserve serious consideration, and am glad that the Tribeca Trib is giving them attention in Carl Glassman's "Proposed Subway Elevators Near Stock Exchange Raise Residents' Fears." Because the city should do more to accommodate disabilities, not to mention help along the tired, I am curious to know if instead of elevators, escalators might be possible instead. Not only will this alternative be safer, but it is less likely to smell of urine.


As the New York Times has recently documented in detail regarding subway construction expenses, the cost of doing business in New York City is inordinately high compared to Europe and other US cities. Now in the Trib we read that one elevator costs 20 million, and elsewhere we read that street bollards for security will cost 50,000 each. These are expensive lumps of metal and concrete! Now in its second term, Mayor de Blasio needs to push more strongly against this patronage and, to be blunt about it, corruption. Disabilities should be accommodated, not greed.  —PAUL CARROLL, 11th Street, NYC