Owners Refuse to Let Newsstand Mar Sublime Beauty of I.M. Pei Building

3454844 Owners Refuse to Let Newsstand Mar Sublime Beauty of I.M. Pei BuildingWall Street Plaza is a 33-floor building at 88 Pine Street that rises up beside the East River in Lower Manhattan. Famed architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed and Partners designed the tower in the late 1960s, and the building now houses the firm’s offices. The owners say that this fact-that it boasts the signature I.M. Pei touch-makes the building “iconic.” So iconic, in fact, that to allow a newsstand in front of it would be eternally damaging to its aesthetic appeal. 

John Liu, president of long-time Wall Street Plaza owners Orient Overseas Associates, talked to The Tribeca Trib today about why he has repeatedly blocked Brooklyn newsstand owner Muhammad Ahsan’s application to set up shop on Water Street between Maiden and Pine. Apparently, he thinks the few feet devoted to hawking daily rags would be akin to someone “squatting right in front of you.”

“There are run-of-the-mill buildings, and there are iconic buildings, and this is an iconic building,” Liu said in an interview with the Trib. “It should be afforded a certain amount of dignity, which the construction of a newsstand would certainly damage. It just isn’t right.”

Mr. Ahsan defended his right to helm the newsstand in his chosen location before the Community Board 1 committee meeting Wednesday night. He said he chose that particular spot because it straddled both the wave of ferry commuters and the wave of bus commuters. Ian Bader, an architect at Pei Cobb Freed, told the committee that “a newsstand anywhere in front of the building would greatly diminish the architectural quality of the space.” The committee approved Mr. Ahsan’s request.

But he’s not entirely in the clear to go ahead with his business. Mr. Liu says he has the option of getting the Orient Overseas lawyers involved, and plans to submit complaints to the Public Design Commission. 

If built, the offending blemish could block only so much of the building’s cherished facade. New York City policy states that a newsstand cannot exceed 9 feet in height, and cannot occupy more than 72 square feet. 

It’s unclear as to whether the “no newsstands” policy is standard for all I.M. Pei-designed structures in the world, or if the rule is unique to Wall Street Plaza. The offices of Pei Cobb Freed could not be reached for comment on the matter.