Stewards of the privately-owned public spaces have learned from the travails of Brookfield Properties: find a reason to keep riff-raff off before they can get a toehold, through excessive power-washing or dubious signage. The Times' Colin Moynihan reports on how JPMorgan Chase has managed to keep their public plaza closed to the public since September: construction fences minus the construction. "I never hear any machinery back there," one worker in the Financial District says. "I wonder what's going on behind this fence."
That's tough to ascertain, as the company refuses to comment on the "construction" and the DOB has resisted FOIL requests on the work, noting that to do so would "endanger the life or safety" of the public. A security guard quoted by Nick Pinto at the Voice was more succinct in why the plaza was closed to the public: "Occupy Wall Street. The bank's a target, so we're protecting the bank."
Richard Nagan, a consultant and "construction expediter" filed suit against the Buildings Department for the FOIL denial, and was told that the property was on an NYPD list of "sensitive buildings" susceptible to a terrorist attack.
After the story in the Voice was published, a contractor received permission to do some waterproofing work, then another earned a permit to add more fencing. That waterproofing work should remain hush-hush, as a police lieutenant in an affidavit for the DOB stated that the plans contained specific information about the plaza and the nearby building.
“The general public should be concerned that there is a pre-emptive closing of a historically public space just because the bank that owns it has an inkling that people might want to gather there and talk about what the bank is doing,” Paula Segal, the law clerk who drafted the complaint said. Maybe, but you just can't rush a good waterproofing job.