Beloved Winter Garden Staircase Will Be Saved, Landlord Says

By Julie Shapiro | June 16, 2011 5:28pm | Updated on June 17, 2011 6:27am

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

BATTERY PARK CITY — Brookfield Properties has scrapped its plan to demolish the Grand Staircase that was rebuilt after 9/11 inside the World Financial Center, following strong opposition from residents and city officials.

"We are pleased to be moving forward with a plan that incorporates the existing Winter Garden staircase," Ric Clark, Brookfield's CEO, said in a statement as part of a larger press release Thursday.

Brookfield executives had said it would be physically impossible to keep the 40 marble steps, which were destroyed on 9/11 but later rebuilt, and became a favorite gathering place for the community.

At many public meetings over the past nine months, Brookfield executives said the staircase would block the exit of a new pedestrian passageway beneath West Street, which will connect the World Financial Center to the World Trade Center at the end of 2012.

Leaving the stairs in place would cause commuting traffic jams in the World Financial Center that would be unsafe, executives said.

Brookfield did not release any information Thursday about the details of their new plan to maintain the stairs. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about whether the entire staircase would be maintained and how it would be incorporated.

Residents who fought to save the staircase were pleased to hear Thursday that they had prevailed.

"It's made my whole day," said Bill Love, a longtime Battery Park City resident and member of Community Board 1. "I'm happy — I'm glad they listened to us."

Residents said the stairs had both practical and symbolic significance to the community: They have hosted everything from free concerts to neighborhood children's first steps, and they are also seen as a memorial to 9/11.

"We fought very hard," said Julie Menin, chairwoman of CB1. "This is outstanding news for the community."

Led by Battery Park City resident Justine Cuccia, volunteers collected thousands of signatures over the past few months opposing the demolition. The residents also had support from City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden and the Service Employees International Local 32BJ union.

Brookfield made the announcement about the stairs in a press release detailing plans for a $250 million retail makeover for the Battery Park City office complex. Brookfield hopes to draw 40 high-end fashion shops and three anchor tenants to a new apparel-focused retail corridor and also plans to build a 25,000-square-foot fresh-food marketplace.

Construction will begin this October and will finish in 2013.