4 NEW YORK PLAZA, Financial District

by Kevin Walsh

I wonder if a cab driver, if asked to go to “New York Plaza.” would know where to take you. It’s an important route…no street sign has ever carried its name (to my recollection) yet four large Manhattan skyscrapers were located there for many years, #1 through 4 New York Plaza. All are on Water Street between Whitehall and Broad. The three buildings have since been re-addressed for the streets where they’re located.

I have something of an affinity for #4 New York Plaza, or #25 Water, as it is now known. It was built from 1968-1969, designed by architects Carson Lundin & Shaw, and is one of the Brutalist buildings that for me has some esthetic value. I didn’t realize it before but as Ephemeral New York points out, it appears to have been designed to resemble a punch card, which stored data on the room-size computers in use in 1968.

I also have some attraction to the building because my mother worked here. She was an employee of Manufacturers Hanover Trust, now JP Morgan Chase, which was the building’s main tenant. Before MHT moved here, they occupied offices at #75 Broad, just south of Beaver. My mother passed away in 1974, and to this day I do not know exactly what she did for MHT as one of the office jockeys, but I do know she worked partial hours as she arrived home around 3 PM every day. It was her mother, my grandmother Bridget, who got me cleaned and dressed every day for school, which was two blocks away: therefore I headed home for lunch and then back to school. In addition, the old man sometimes had a weekend schedule at Stuyvesant Town, so he’d be off Wednesday and Thursday and did the honors on those days. Occasionally the old man and I would head to Water Street to meet my mother for lunch; no doubt I was wide-eyed at all the hustle, bustle and tall buildings.

Funny how Brutalist downtown buildings spark memories of childhood.

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7/29/21

7 comments

Andy July 30, 2021 - 9:18 am

On August 5, 1970, a fire on the 33d Floor of the then-new One New York Plaza office building killed two people and injured over thirty other people. This event led to many changes in NYC building codes and fire safety procedures. Source: http://www.fdnysbravest.com/Div7NewsletterOCT2019.pdf.

August 1970 is etched in my memory because that’s when I got married. Four years later I began a job that would last for over seven years at another new skyscraper nearby, namely #1 World Trade Center. By then many of the lessons learned from the 1970 fire were part of fire safety rules in NYC high-rise offices, including 1 WTC. After the 9/11 tragedy, I considered myself fortunate for having left the job #1 WTC.

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Edward July 30, 2021 - 10:21 am

Having seen New York Plaza hundreds of times after getting off the nearby Staten Island Ferry, it never occurred to me that the old “Manny Hanny” HQ looked like a big old punch card! I believe the New York Daily News rented space in the building after abandoning their much-loved newspaper building on East 42nd Street, and after spending a few years in another brutalist building west of Penn Station. I worked for a while at 55 Water Street just behind #4 NY Plaza, and believe it was the largest building in the world with a single tenant (Chemical Bank) after the Pentagon. Not sure if that’s true, but still interesting!

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Dennis Black July 31, 2021 - 10:34 am

What had been called 2 NY Plaza is now 125 Broad St. It used to be the American Express Building; I think my Aunt Audrey used to work there.

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Tal Barzilai August 1, 2021 - 12:36 am

My father used to work over at 1 NY Plaza, which is the rightmost building in that picture, on the 10th floor with JP Morgan Chase until a few years ago when he started working with UBS in Weehawken.

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James Scully August 9, 2021 - 11:35 am

I worked in the building between 2018-2019. The lobby is nice.

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michael g. giuseffi September 20, 2021 - 9:44 am

I worked in that building from 2014 until the pandemic. I still work for the company but continue to work from home. I went into the office two weeks ago for IT service – it was a Thursday at noon.
Normally the streets would be bustling with pedestrians with hardly a place to walk. Now you could shoot deer. There were maybe four or five people in sight. Most of the places I got lunch are closed – my favorite pizzeria on Water St -Pranzo Pizza is closed and gone. I don’t know how NY will bounce back. No one I know wants to start commuting again.

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Fred V Provoncha September 25, 2021 - 11:35 am

From say 1973 to 1978 I worked for ADP/FDS in 4 NY Plaza, mainframe senior computer operator. My kids would come in weekends and play with the
IBM 360/65, then their mom would take them to Battery Park. I loved the job, hated the commute in from Lynbrook, NY, I usually drove, had a parking spot just under the end of the FDR, valet parking.. The elevators there were not the best, so I often took the stairs.. I understand the somewhat recent major storms were not kind to the building..

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