Is the New York Times Building an Attractive Nuisance?


Is the new New York Times building an attractive nuisance for climbers and stuntmen?

We ask this question tongue in cheek.  Yesterday, a third climber scaled the building.  About one month ago two climbers scaled the building on the same day.   

It appears that the building is easy to climb.  The key design element of the facade is a series of slats which were designed to cut-down on the sun.  However, climbers have discovered that this facade is one long ladder.   The first climber, a Frenchman, said that it was a very easy climb similar to climbing a ladder (albeit a very, very long one).

The legal concept of attractive nuisance is that a landowner cannot leave unguarded a hazardous condition which can attract children.  For example, a ditch or open trench should be fenced so that children do not play around it and risk falling.  The landowner has this obligation even though the children are trespassing.  The hazard is said to be an attractive nuisance in that it attracts children who do not know any better.  New York has a similar concept in that a landowner must provide reasonable protection of people who may trespass, such as children or incompetent people.  If the landowner knows that it has a condition which attracts trespassers, the landowner must take reasonable steps to keep the trespassers out. 

We think that the Times has not done enough.  The building has become a magnet for climbers and stuntmen who want to send a “message” by scaling the Times Building.  Are not these stuntmen grown-up children?  Has the Times done everything possible to prevent future stunts?  After two climbers made their climbs on the same day about one month ago, the Times said that it was correcting the situation in making this ladder-like facade inaccessible to pedestrians or trespassers.  What happened now?  How was this latest thrill-seeker able to get up?

Aside from the humor of the “Old Gray Lady” being the center of a stunt, these climbs are very dangerous not only to the climber.  These have cost tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money while police scurry to rescue the climber and protect people on the street. 

I can foresee an accident in which a climber not only falls but falls with a piece of the building onto pedestrians below.  The facade was not made to be a ladder and may not be able  to withstand the stress.  I doubt that it can bear the weight of a human.  I think that it is foreseeable that either a piece of the facade would break-off or that an entire section would get loose and fall-off with a climber.  

The Times does not actually own the building.  However, it is the main tenant and has its name over the door.  The climbers are attracted to the building because it has the name of the Times.  Some climb to make a political message.  For example, the last climber was protesting the evil of Al Qaeda.  The Times building will continue to be a destination for either pure thrill seekers or mountain climbers with a political point. 

“The Newspaper of Record” has the obligation to do more now.

Mark E. Seitelman, 7/10/08, www.seitelman.com

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One Response to Is the New York Times Building an Attractive Nuisance?

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