55 Church Street
Located between Dey and Fulton Streets on Church Street, across from the huge plaza in front of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, this modest urban plaza furnishes uncovered and covered areas for seating. Near Fulton Street is an enclave of four round polished black-granite planters set in decorative paving, each with a tree and each encircled by comfortable ledge seating and metal rails that, refreshingly, serve as seat backs rather than seat impediments. The openness of the graveyard across Fulton Street, behind Saint Paul’s Chapel, offsets the tightness of the space and the irrefutable presence of the World Trade Center. At night the trees are lit and the tiny place takes on a festive air.
In service of the hotel, a glass-and-metal canopy structure extends from the lobby doors to the Church Street curb and slices the urban plaza in half. Because the canopied space is not only covered on top, but also enclosed on each side by scored glass walls, it is impossible to walk from south to north ends of the urban plaza without making a detour into the public sidewalk. The compensation, however, is a public area protected from the elements with two wood benches for seating. Even though this entryway feels private, exclusively serving the hotel, it is important to realize that it is not. The southern third of the urban plaza has four flagpoles and four planters set near the building. Sidewalk widening space is located on both Fulton and Dey Streets.
As for the World Trade Center plaza across the street, it is a publicly owned public space under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and thus does not enter the City’s inventory of privately owned public spaces. The space recently underwent a major renovation designed to encourage greater public use, and the early results are encouraging.