Volume 20 Issue 7 | June 29 - July 5, 2007

Preliminary rendering of the JPMorgan Chase building by Kohn Pedersen Fox, right, would have a cantilever over a new St. Nicholas Church and would be to the east of a proposed park near Liberty St.

Port architect: Park near JP tower won’t be paradise

By Josh Rogers

The “so-called park” slated to be built near JPMorgan Chase’s new World Trade Center headquarters will get enough sun but not many visitors, the architect leading the project told Downtown Express this week.

A. Eugene Kohn, a founding partner of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, said he expects few people to climb up to the one-acre park on Liberty St. because it will be 17 to 20 feet above street level in sections, and it will be over a noisy delivery truck entrance to the W.T.C.

“It’s more of a visual park,” Kohn said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s not likely to be used much — that’s my guess although I could be wrong.”

Kohn’s architectural firm has produced the preliminary renderings of the $2 billion Chase building, has conducted shadow studies of the park, and has worked extensively with the Port Authority, which owns the W.T.C. site and approved the 92-year lease with Chase last week. Kohn has not been picked yet to design the Chase building, but he is a likely candidate, particularly since Chase referred questions on the building to him.

The 1.3-million-square-foot building will be at the Tower 5 site at the World Trade Center and will replace the former Deutsche Bank building, which was badly damaged on 9/11 and is currently being dismantled. Six or seven trading floors will jut out from the building about 200 feet over the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which will be rebuilt adjacent to the park. Depending on the number of trading floors built, the office tower will be between 670 and 740 feet tall, at least 60 feet shorter than it could have been without the cantilever addition. According to Kohn’s studies, the cantilever will add shadows to the church, but not the park. There will be shadows in the park from the rest of the Chase building as well as other existing and planned buildings.

The park’s shadows will be greatest at 3 p.m. in the summer, and at noon in the fall and spring. Kohn said there would be even more shadows in the colder winter months.

The church will have “a great outdoor room,” which along with the park will get enough sun, Kohn said. “There’s air and light on all sides of the park,” he said. “It gives a very nice sense of space to the church.”

As part of the deal, Chase will donate $10 million to be divided between the memorial across the street and the church.

Father Alex Karloutsos, a spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Church in New York, said that in general, the church is grateful for all donations, but he had “no reaction” to the multi-million-dollar gift from Chase or to the investment bank’s plans to build over St. Nicholas.

Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee, said it is important to make sure the park does not get slighted. “Open space is precious Downtown and the little we have, we have to preserve,” she said.

The probability that the Port’s vehicle security center would raise the park over the street level has been known for a few years, but Hughes said she has not heard anything about that for awhile and she hopes to get more details soon.

Kohn said the Liberty St. pedestrian bridge from the World Financial Center is likely to lead into the park. When asked about this, Hughes said it sounded good in theory so long as the bridge does not cut out a big piece of the park.

The park has not been designed yet and construction is not likely to begin before 2011, when the Port hopes to have the vehicle security center and tour bus garage finished under the park.

Even though the trading floors will hover near where trucks will enter the W.T.C., Kohn said the New York Police Dept. thinks the building’s safety has been enhanced by moving the larger floors up. “They like the fact that trading floors are so far up,” he said.

JP Morgan’s lease with the Port is expected to begin by Sept. 1 2008, when the New York-New Jersey agency plans to turn over an empty office tower site to the bank for construction. The date is an acknowledgement of something that officials with other agencies have been unwilling to admit — that the Deutsche project is unlikely to be finished on time at the end of this year. Chase could finish its building by the end of 2012.

The demolition of the contaminated Deutsche building has been delayed many times for a wide range of reasons, most recently because of work safety violations including a large pipe that crashed into the 10/10 firehouse next door, injuring two firefighters. If the pattern of multi-year delays continues at 130 Liberty, Chase has an out — the bank can walk away with $1 million from the Port if it does not get all of the government approvals needed to begin building by Dec. 31, 2010.

Under the deal’s terms, Chase will pay the Port $300 million for control of the site The bank will get about $240 million worth of tax and other benefits from the state and city.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer said all but $20 million in the incentive package were “off the shelf” benefits, available to any firm which signs an early lease at the W.T.C. Many of the subsidies were part of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s “Marshall Plan,” passed in Albany two years ago.

Spitzer, Silver, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Port leaders joined Chase C.E.O. Jamie Dimon two weeks ago to announce the deal.

“We’re proud, we’re going back home,” Dimon said, noting that both Chase and a financier named J.P. Morgan began near Wall St. “We feel great about it.”

“We have proven once again that Downtown Manhattan is the epicenter of global capital,” Spitzer said.

The governor even suggested the cantilever would improve the open space, which he described as “an all-weather park. Beneath it there’ll be some opportunity to play chess or play ball in the park when it is pouring in the surrounding area because the cantilever will provide cover.”

When told of that comment, a skeptical Hughes said, “I’d like to have a wind and rain analysis.”

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