88 Pine Street

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The usable part of this L-shaped special permit plaza is located between Water and Front Streets, at the southwest side of the building, in the street bed of what used to be part of Pine Street until it was demapped by the City in 1970. This rectangular space appears to be bordered on two sides by office buildings, although a portion of it to the southwest actually belongs to the plaza at 100 Wall Street. A wall of rough-hewn brick, softened by water pouring down its slanted face, visually and audibly blocks much of Front Street, making this space well suited for lunch and other outdoor uses. In front of the waterfall, on a minutely raised surface, are a round planter with ledge seating, three black benches, five trees, and 24 movable white wire mesh chairs lashed together in fours. The lashing is to assure that anyone walking off with a movable chair, always a concern with public spaces, will have to transport four rather than one, a far more daunting carry. Pretend owls perched on the second and third floors of 88 Pine Street stand guard against pigeons, mice, and other city creatures.

Near the Water Street side of the special permit plaza is a two-piece abstract sculpture, by Taiwanese artist Yu Yu Yang, consisting of a large shiny stainless steel disk standing upright next to a 16-foot-tall steel rectangle with a circular hole in it, suggesting that the disk has been cut from the rectangle. This circle in the square creates an intriguing visual and philosophical perspective for the viewer who repeatedly regresses in the reflection of the disk. The space moves from the artistic to the touristic with a plexiglass-covered memorial to the “Queen Elizabeth I,” the British ocean liner that caught fire and sank on January 9, 1972, in Hong Kong, where it was to serve as a floating university. Two bronze initials taken from the ship’s bow, a Q and an E, are displayed, as are a letter from Queen Elizabeth’s private secretary lamenting the disaster and a telegram from Kurt Waldheim. The shrine’s placement here is explained by the fact that the owner of 88 Pine Street also owned the Queen Elizabeth I.

The remainder of the plaza, a strip with trees, continues along the Water Street frontage to Maiden Lane. Both the address and name of the building, 88 Pine Street and Wall Street Plaza, may cause confusion in that the building is not on Pine nor on Wall Streets. But Pine Street once did border this location and Wall Street is, well, a good address.

The enclosed public space at 180 Maiden Lane is across Front Street and worth a visit.

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