I’m embarrassed to say: I have a crush on our building.
We are at 120 Broadway and the building is beautiful, odd and rich with history that would only make the dorkiest of urban planners gush with delight.
Also known as the Equitable Building, the massive structure is actually the second iteration of the skyscraper. In 1870, when the Equitable Life Assurance Building was constructed at 120 Broadway and at a whopping 130 feet high, it was the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa is 2,684 feet high). A ravenous fire in 1912 destroyed the building and in 1915 the life insurance company reconstructed it bigger and better — still as the largest office building in the world at the time. Taking up an entire block with no setback between Broadway and Nassau, most passers-by don’t realize the building is actually shaped like an “H” above the first six floors. The building is so massive that it’s one of 43 buildings in the city with its own zip code: 10271.
Revered to be a pioneer superstructure and yet feared for its enormity, the building is what led the City of New York to create…wait for it…the NYC Zoning Code. I know you lie awake at night terrified of what our city would look like without the zoning code. Well, don’t fret my pet, if it wasn’t for the towering and yet beautiful Equitable Building in Lower Manhattan, we would have land-use anarchy! 120 Broadway blocked the sun from its neighboring buildings and streets, forcing city planners to consider standardized skyscraper regulations. This is when concepts that we’re used to — like setbacks and the tiered “wedding cake” shape of buildings — were set into stone.
Currently, the building is owned and managed by Silverstein Properties and as those who’ve had legal trouble would know, this is where Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has his offices. And with the most recent addition of The Capital Grille on the ground floor, our lobby has a delicious smoky sirloin aroma. Other ground floor eating options include Ashby’s and Manon Café, where a coffee purchase comes with a free piece of Leonidas Belgian chocolate.
The building has hidden treasures, too. Unbeknownst to many straphangers, there is a hidden underground passageway to the Wall Street 4/5 stop, Broad Street J/Z stop and Wall Street 2/3 stop from our basement lobby (though the 2/3 passageway is particularly tricky to navigate and leads you through the Chase Manhattan lobby). The passageway is perfect for the days you forgot your umbrella at home. There are no signs pointing to it from the street and it’s not listed on HopStop. You just have to know it’s there.
Lastly, Little Lad’s. How do I describe Little Lad’s? Located on your way to the underground passageway is Lower Manhattan’s best kept secret and possibly oddest lunchtime experience. Don’t get me wrong, I say “oddest” in the nicest way possible and it’s a perfect respite from Downtown’s other, normally fast-paced lunch time experiences. For $4.98 you can help yourself to a hot halal, kosher, vegan meal in what I can only describe as their “1970’s lunch-counter-turned-cafeteria” dining area. Members of the family who runs Little Lad’s are the sweetest people, and their sincere hospitality will make you think you are back in Kansas — or Maine. (They drive south to NYC from there every Monday). Again, you won’t find signs for it from the street. You just have to know its there.
So there it is: my love affair with Lower Manhattan’s grandest super-block, zip code 10271, the once-tallest building in the world, and home of the only vegan SDA lunch counter below Canal. Can you really blame me?