Reprinted from the New York Times online.

By David W. Dunlap
Printed December 28, 2006

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It is easy to criticize haphazard security measures that cannibalize and demean public space.

It is not so easy to come up with alternatives besides those ever-multiplying sidewalk posts known as bollards. But a couple of intriguing ideas from Rogers Marvel Architects are on view in the Municipal Art Society’s Urban Center, at Madison Avenue and 51st Street.

One, an unobtrusive truck barrier, is already a reality at Battery Park City. The other, a turntable barrier, may become a reality next year.

The turntable, 20 feet in diameter, would be embedded in Broad Street. It would support a row of posts capable of resisting a heavy speeding truck. There would be room enough between the posts for pedestrians to pass, and the surface would be paved in the same material as the surrounding roadway.

Usually, the barrier would be in the closed position, perpendicular to traffic. For authorized vehicles, the turntable would rotate 90 degrees, shifting the row of posts parallel to traffic and creating an opening large enough to drive through.

Rogers Marvel and its offshoot firm, Rock 12 Security Architecture, designed the turntable to help reclaim the streetscape outside the New York Stock Exchange, which created a seven-block security belt around itself after 9/11. This included makeshift checkpoints at which heavily laden pickup trucks, parked crosswise, blocked the streets.

Five years later, there are still two pickup trucks at Broad and Beaver Streets, surrounded by concrete planter tubs and police barricades.

If the turntable survives the scrutiny of the Police Department and the Art Commission, it will replace the trucks sometime next year. It would be made by the Macton Corporation of Oxford, Conn., one of whose turntables is on stage at the Metropolitan Opera House.

This is the second phase of a streetscape program begun in 2003 by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Department of City Planning and the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

In the first phase, temporary barricades around the exchange were replaced with 30-inch-high barriers that Rogers Marvel calls NoGos. Their faceted, polygonal bronze surfaces cover concrete cores weighing a couple of tons. They are large enough and just flat enough to double as benches. The turntable posts would resemble the NoGos, said Graeme Waitzkin of Rock 12.

What if pedestrians are on the turntable when it begins moving? Robert M. Rogers of Rogers Marvel answered with a question of his own: “Did your grandmother ever fall down when she was having brunch at the revolving restaurant?”

Rudin Management, the builder and owner of 55 Broad Street, which stands at the checkpoint, supports the project. Asked what made the turntable so attractive, John J. Gilbert III, the chief operating officer at Rudin, said, “No. 1, it’s cool.”

MUCH less conspicuous is a barrier called a Tiger Trap that Rogers Marvel and the Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation of Aston, Pa., have designed for the Battery Park City Authority. It functions like a moat but looks like landscaping.

In the Tiger Trap system, which has been installed at Vesey Street and North End Avenue, a threshold made of compressible concrete extends in front of a low wall. The concrete bed is covered with plantings (sedum, in the case of Battery Park City) or paving. It is strong enough to bear the weight of people on foot.

But if a truck tried to cross it, the concrete threshold would collapse, sending the truck into the barrier wall, which extends several feet below ground. It has been shown to stop a 15,000-pound truck hitting it at 50 miles per hour. Compressible concrete is also used to stop aircraft that overrun the ends of runways.

“It’s been well tested,” James E. Cavanaugh, the president and chief executive of the Battery Park City Authority, said yesterday.

“Our hope is that we can convince the corporate community to get away from ringing their buildings with bollards,” he said. “We want to provide the feeling of a city, rather than an armed camp.”

“You know what the obstacle is?” Mr. Cavanaugh continued. “When you talk to corporate security people, they like the look of being protected. They like the idea of bollards because it sends a signal to would-be terrorists.” However, he added, “anyone who’s going to look to breach security at a building is going to do their homework and find out who’s protected and who’s not.”

He recalled the attitude among corporations a few years ago when the authority started trying to integrate security less conspicuously into the streetscape. “There wasn’t a lot of sympathy for the direction we were headed in,” he said. “But I sense that interest is starting to grow.”

The turntable and the trap are featured in an exhibition, “The New Street: Innovation at the Perimeter,” organized by Rogers Marvel. It runs through Wednesday in the Urban Center Galleries, which are open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but closed Thursdays and Sundays. Admission is free.

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