Preservation Issues

Conservancy Testifies on Plaza Renovations at 140 Broadway

Our Testimony


March 2018

The Conservancy commented on a proposal at a March 20 Landmarks Commission hearing to renovate the plaza at 140 Broadway, a mid-century modern masterpiece in the Financial District. Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s 1968 skyscraper is probably best known for the 28-foot tall, red Isamu Noguchi cube that sits in the plaza.

An early version of the proposal elicited a strong negative reaction, as it would have installed a series of planters with benches along the Cedar Street side of the plaza, culminating in an especially large planter at the corner with Broadway. This alteration would have dismantled the balanced composition of building, plaza, and cube that make this landmark significant. The proposal presented at LPC called for a more modest group of planters, without the corner disruption. The Conservancy’s testimony supported the more limited plan, and the Commission approved it.

The most controversial part of the proposal is outside of the Landmarks Commission’s purview: the owners have asked the Department of Transportation for the right to install additional planters and benches at the edge of the property line along Broadway, where food cart vendors have set up for many years. Several of the vendors and their representatives spoke at the hearing, but the LPC did not take up this issue.

The proposal also envisioned a row of new lighting stanchions set a few feet in from Cedar Street, delineating the perimeter of the landmark designation and installation of new granite pavers throughout the plaza. The Commissioners had a lively discussion about whether to allow new granite to replace the existing, non-original granite, or insist on travertine, the historic plaza material. We asked that any new interventions be treated with the lightest touch, to maintain the plaza’s historic open character. In the end, the Commissioners rejected the lighting, and approved the granite, pending further research on contemporary granite and travertine.