It looks like one of New York’s ugliest buildings may also have turned out to be one of its naughtiest. The exchange place at 375 Pearl Street is reviled by many, including tall buildings expert and AN pal Carol Willis, thanks to its blank sides and besmirching of our Brooklyn Bridge panoramas. Fortunately, plans were in the works to have Cook + Fox reclad the building and turn it into something more befitting of an increasingly polished downtown, not unlike the recent transformation of another former phone exchanger across from Bryan Park, 1095 Avenue of the Americas. But that could all come tumbling down thanks to some long—or is it tall—overdue taxes.
Curbed sounded the alarm about a report in the Tribeca Trib that details some serious zoning and tax violations stretching back to when the building was first drawn up in 1972. Apparently, when the exchange place—basically floor upon floor of telephone connections—was constructed by New York Telephone, it added hundreds of thousands of square feet more than it promised in its deal with the city, from whom it bought the land for $17 million at the time. Had it not been for the 2007 sale of 29 of the building’s 32 floors to Taconic Development, and the developer’s subsequent advertisement of the missing square footage, the city might never have realized. But now, they’re suing Verizon and the developer—the city alleges Taconic was complicit, given its below-market-rate price for the floors—for $53 million plus interest. And if that were not enough to kill the reclad, there’s an injunction on any construction work taking place at the building until the case is resolved.