The World Financial Stairs, first erected nearly thirty years ago, served as an important — if merely utilitarian — gateway for those needing to travel between the Winter Garden and the World Trade Center. The stairs were built to endure and withstand the foot traffic of thousands of people coming to and from the train stations during the lunch and rush hours, as well as serve as impromptu colosseum seating for Winter Garden performances and events.
Like a great marble work of art, the World Financial Stairs have signified and become an unwitting relic of survival and an icon of restoration in the days and now years after September 11th. One cannot see, think, or remember the Winter Garden without the stairs as the backdrop of the minds eye.
These days, most of the steps taken up the stairs are to reach the viewing area where the entrance of the bridge used to be. For almost a decade, light has cascaded freely into both sides of the Winter Garden, helping to further highlight the marble stairs as never before. No longer merely hidden under the soles of the commuters and office workers, the craftsmanship and marble gleam.
Ok, I’m waxing a bit poetic here, but obviously by the title and tone of this article, I’m biased towards these particular stairs.
Despite this writer’s respect, however, the stairs are in jeopardy. Brookfield Properties, owners of the Winter Garden, are scheduling demolition of the stairs in an effort to expand their office and retail offerings.
In the first step toward saving the stairs, an unlikely proponent emerged. Last week, members of the 32BJ SEIU, a local union whose members work at the World Financial Center, began passing out flyers to bring awareness to the World Financial Center stairs. Why does the Union care?
A spokesman from 32BJ SEIU, Matt Painter, reached out to BatteryParkCity.com and had this to say,
“32BJ SEIU is involved because the Winter Garden is an important public space for the city and our members — many of whom live and work in lower Manhattan. Â The stairs have a symbolic significance to our union as well. Â As the cityâ€™s largest building services union, we have members who, as security guards, acted as first responders to the 9/11 attacks. Â The restored stairs represent the cityâ€™s willingness to rebuild, and the removal of this important removal seems insensitive to the communityâ€™s needs and to this important memorial of that day.”
Are the stairs important enough for us as a community to try and save them? We have been able to get immediate response for a tire swing. We’re trying to find landmark status for a former Burlington Coat Factory. It’s time to put it out there, should the World Financial / Winter Garden Stairs receive landmark status too? If so, how? What can we do as a community? What do you think?