Uncommon Valor

May 31, 2005
WINNER: Verizon Building at 140 West Street, New York City

New York City: Its recovery and resiliency from the heartbreak of 9/11 - a tragedy never to be forgotten - is a continuing demonstration of its citizens’ and businesses’ leadership and heroic efforts. One physical representation that embodies this remarkable rebirth is the meticulous restoration of the 1.2-million-square-foot Verizon Building at 140 West Street, which sustained severe structural and mechanical damage from the collapse of the Twin Towers and the adjacent 7 World Trade Center. Led by owner Verizon and construction manager Tishman Interiors Corp., New York City, the arduous and dedicated 3-year rebuilding effort has given new life and new glory to one of the city’s most significant landmarks.

At the time of its completion in 1927, the tower - known as the Barclay-Vesey Building - was the second largest in Lower Manhattan. At 32 stories tall, with another 5 stories below-grade, the building served as the original headquarters of the New York Telephone Co. Distinguished and widely heralded since its completion, the Mayan-inspired Art Deco design gained the building New York City Landmark status, specifically protecting the entire facade, interior first-floor lobby, and entrances (Guastavino-vaulted pedestrian arcades at its base run the whole length of Vesey Street - a trade-off for widening the narrow roadway). Built to accommodate office space for more than 5,000 workers, and to support the weight of the telephone company’s original electromechanical switching assemblies, the building’s dramatic reinforced steel and concrete form and floors proved a successful experiment in massing as well. Conversely, veined marble walls, travertine floors with bronze medallions, and a vaulted ceiling embellished with murals (depicting the stages in the evolution of human communication) further established its landmark status from an interiors point of view.

On 9/11, all that changed. Because of its close proximity and the devastating nature of the collapse of World Trade Center Towers 1 and 2, the south face of 140 West Street was extensively damaged, with entire column bays destroyed as high as the 13th story. To the east, a mere 60 feet away, stood the 47-story 7 World Trade Center. When 7 WTC collapsed later that same day, it fell to the west, causing even more structural damage to the eastern portions of the first 9 floors housing Verizon’s most critical equipment. The burning rubble from its remains piled 7 stories high against and through the east facade. While the sturdy Verizon building remained standing, extreme damage was suffered in the surrounding streets by the collapsed steel and concrete, severely damaging Verizon’s underground cable vaults and severing incoming Con Edison feeders, DC power and steam service, domestic water mains, and sanitary sewage piping. Clearly, the project would become multi-phased: first, as a disaster-recovery rebuild; then as a historic preservation and modernization to turn this celebrated building into a 21st-century office building within a historic shell.

Tishman Interiors personnel, who had begun previously planned restoration work at 140 West Street prior to 9/11, returned to Ground Zero before daybreak on Sept. 12 to assess damages. A core team of specialists was assembled to restore telecommunications service, including the installation of temporary chillers, and a pumping operation removed 20-million-plus gallons of water from the building’s basement. By Sept. 14, telecomm systems were back on line - a critical component for reopening the New York Stock Exchange. Extensive repairs to the facade and shoring up of the damaged structural components - requiring 520,000 bricks; 22,500 concrete blocks; and 93 tons of structural steel - were undertaken concurrently.

Following the emergency recovery, Tishman Interiors managed the reconstruction of over 600,000 square feet of office and technology space. Workers constructed a total of three new switch rooms and battery plants, as well as a new mechanical (water and fire protection, with upgrades to the existing steam system) and electrical infrastructure (including new 12,500-kva, 480-volt service, new transformer vaults, network protectors, switchgear, and 480-volt distribution and bus duct risers throughout the building). The team also installed a new 3,200-ton chiller plant and riser system; six 63,000 CFM handling units; seven cooling towers; and water, sanitary, and storm systems.

Lead architect for the restoration work was William F. Collins AIA Architects LLP, Setauket, NY. Inside, the building lobby’s architectural elements and artwork - damaged by burst water mains and firefighting efforts - were carefully restored, piece by piece, to their original detail and luster through technical analysis, historical research, and precise coordination. To revive the building’s 210-foot-long vaulted ceiling embellished with intricate murals, a team of 30 conservators, technicians, and artists used hypodermic needles to inject acrylic resin and ethyl cellulose glue into crevices to reattach plaster and paint. More than 500 linear feet of floral decorative panels were painted to replace the originals. EverGreene Painting Studios Inc., New York City, was responsible for the lobby and mural restoration.

According to Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which gave the Verizon Building at 140 West Street a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award in 2004, “Verizon, Tishman, and the entire team working on 140 West Street performed exemplary duties in completely restoring one of New York’s preeminent architectural gems. When it was originally constructed, this building was a monument to a new era of growth and prosperity in our city; and with its rebirth, it is once again a defining element in a new downtown New York.”

Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.

The Modernization Team ■ Construction Manager (entry submitter): Tishman Interiors Corp. ■ Owner: Verizon ■ Lead Architect: William F. Collins AIA Architects LLP ■ Structural Engineer: Severud Associates ■ Façade Engineer: Merritt Engineering Consultants PC ■ MEP Engineer: Syska Hennessy Group ■ Consulting Engineer: Arthur R. Breuer PE PLLC ■ Products Used ■ Blinds/Window Treatments: MechoShade ■ Building Controls: BELIMO; Johnson Controls ■ Ceilings: Armstrong ■ Doors: ACME; Metropolitan Door ■ Electrical/Electronics Distribution: Eaton Cutler-Hammer; Hammond; IDEAL Industries; Lincoln Electric ■ Elevators/Escalators: Otis ■ Exterior Cleaning/Repair: PROSOCO ■ Floorcoverings: Armstrong; C&A Floorcoverings; Crossfield; Johnsonite; Mannington; Roppe; Tate Access Floors ■ Hardware: Best; Ives; LCN; Stanley ■ HVAC: Buffalo Air Handling; Carrier; Sulzer Pumps; Yaskawa ■ Life Safety/Security: Detection Systems; Folger Adam; GE Interlogix; Larsen’s Manufacturing; VESDA; Von Duprin; Wheelock ■ Lighting: Columbia; Lightolier ■ Other: Greenheck ■ Paint: Benjamin Moore; Sherwin-Williams ■ Plumbing: American Standard; Filtrine; Hubbell; Kimberly-Clark ■ Roofing: Soprema ■ Signage: Seton ■ Wallcoverings: Wolf-Gordon ■ Walls/Partitions: U.S. Gypsum ■ Windows/Glass: TRACO

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