Chase Manhattan Plaza Still Fenced Off, Activists Call on Landmarks Commission To Act [UPDATE]


In this week’s issue we wrote about the metal fencing that has surrounded Chase Manhattan Plaza for the past four months, and the efforts of public space activists to have the fencing removed.

Landmarks Commission spokeswoman Lisi DeBourbon told us last week the fencing is none of the Commission’s business, because it is partly on wheels and therefore considered removable.

This week has brought further wrangling, as the open-space advocates and the Landmarks Preservation Commission argue over whether the owners are allowed to indefinitely surround an entire landmarked property with metal fencing without so much as a permit.

#whOWNSpace, the organization of public space advocates behind the campaign to reopen the plaza, has posted a response, citing the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s own permit application form, which reads in part:

If an owner wishes to perform any work on a designated landmark or on a property in a designated historic district, he or she must obtain a permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (“LPC”) approving such work before carrying it out.”

Even if the proposed changes will have “no effect on the protected architectural features,” property owners still have to submit a permit application so the Landmarks Commission can determine that. JP Morgan Chase never filed an application.

But Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Lisi DeBourbon says the application presumes the work is meant to be a permanent improvement.

“Movable fences and other fixtures such as newspaper boxes, lawn furniture and potted plants, are not considered permanent improvements and therefore require no review by the LPC if an owner installs them,” De Bourbon says.

But Richie Nagan, the Building Department expediter who first complained about the barriers at Zuccotti Park and alerted the National Lawyers Guild to the violations, disagrees.

“Actually a permit is issued by Landmarks” for a case like this, Nagan says, citing page 28 of the Guidelines and Materials Checklists for Performing Work on Landmarked Buildings, which says even “temporary installations” require a plan filed with the Commission and assurances that the installation will be removed on time.

De Bourbon disgrees, claiming that regulation only governs signs.

Paula Segal of #whOWNSpace says that may be Landmark’s perspective, but it’s not the end of the story.

“Landmark thinks it’s made a final determination,” she said this afternoon. “So it seems that we’re in a position to appeal to a court.”


Landmarks Preservation Commission Spokeswoman Lisi DeBourbon wrote on January 30th with this addition:

I saw your story, and wanted to clarify something not so much for the purposes of a correction, but rather to explain the expediter’s comment.

LPC issues temporary installation permits are for the installation of fixtures that are attached to a landmark or landmarked site for a finite period of time. It doesn’t just extend to banners and signs. Temporary does not refer to work we normally don’t regulate, just the time period.

Movable fences, scaffolding, etc. are not affixed or attached and therefore require no permit of any kind.