By Paul Bisceglio
Following downtown residents’ and the Community Board 1 (CB1) Urban Planning Committee’s demands for an explanation, three representatives of JP Morgan Chase met with the CB1 Quality of Life Committee yesterday evening to discuss the closure of One Chase Manhattan Plaza, home of the bank’s Financial District skyscraper and a privately owned major pedestrian thruway that has been fenced off since September.
Officially, the plaza was closed for a yet-to-be-seen construction project, but its timing prompted many citizens to suspect that the fencing was erected to ward off Occupy Wall Street protestors. Suspicion increased when various community remembers reported that they were explicitly told by the bank’s floor workers and security guards that the barrier was to prevent protests.
Committee member Ro Sheffe asked the representatives if any factors at all other than construction were behind the plaza’s closure. Chase’s Community Reinvestment Manager Karen McGuinness responded, “Absolutely not.”
The representatives explained that serious leaks in the plaza were identified that compromise the building’s infrastructure and safety. They said that the bank has spent recent months surveying the lot and using vector mapping to determine weak points. Results showed that the plaza’s membrane would be good for another 8-10 years, but multiple sections need repair, along with cleaning and resetting.
Asked how long repairs would take, one representative said about six months, weather permitting. Asked when repairs would begin, he responded, “soon — as soon as tomorrow, even,” but promised no specific date or deadline.
Asked if the plaza would reopen to the public after construction, another representative assured that it would. “We intend to operate the plaza as it has been traditionally operated,” he said.
After the representatives left the meeting, the Committee agreed to suspend a resolution to pressure the bank to reopen the plaza that the Urban Planning Committee had drafted when it met on July 5. For now, they decided, they would keep an eye on the plaza and wait to see if Chase follows through.
Many committee members remained skeptical about the bank’s story — a few had been told themselves by the bank’s staff that the fencing was in place to block protestors — but most were satisfied that the bank had made its intentions clear.
Sheffe, however, said that he was still unhappy. “I don’t want to argue with Chase because it’s their property,” he told New York Press. “But there’s a social imperative. [The plaza] is a valuable community resource. I want it open as soon as possible.”
Tags: cb1, Chase Bank, Community Board 1, Financial District, Karen McGuinness, Occupy Wall Street, one chase manhattan plaza, ows, privately owned public spaces, quality of life committee, ro sheffe, urban planning committee
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