Times Square Tower Doesn’t Drop the Ball on Safety

By: Jessica Bates

This is the fifth in a series of articles exploring the six different criteria evaluated by the BOMA 360 Performance Program®.

Every December 31, tenants and visitors to Times Square Tower are treated to a spectacular view of the Times Square Ball drop. The 47-story building, owned and managed by Boston Properties, takes up an entire block of the busy thoroughfare and provides the ideal vantage point for watching the New Year’s Eve festivities.

Revelers will only get a glimpse, however, into the complex security efforts going on behind the scenes. The Times Square Tower’s security team attends meetings with the New York City Police Department weeks in advance to help coordinate the event. The train station directly below the skyscraper is closed and secured for the night, and even tenants cannot bring guests into the building without prior approval. Hard work and detailed planning by the property team and local authorities create a safe and secure building, not just on New Year’s Eve, but all year.

Time Square Tower’s high-profile location means building staff must factor security into everything they do. When the property team applied for the BOMA 360 designation last year, its comprehensive approach to life safety and security stood out in their application. The building was constructed in the early 2000s at a time when life safety and security was front and center in the commercial real estate industry. “It’s become a cliché to say 9/11 was a game changer, but it was,” explains Tom Hill, senior vice president of Property Management for Boston Properties. “It not only opened our eyes to a new scale of disaster, but it also highlighted the importance of a ‘day two’ plan—once the disaster is over and you’ve done everything you can to keep people safe, you need a plan for how to get up and running again.” A business disruption for a Times Square Tower tenant could have consequences for the national or global economy, making resiliency a particularly important watchword among the building’s security team, which boasts former employees of the NYPD counterterrorism unit and the New York Fire Department. In fact, all six categories evaluated by the BOMA 360 program can come into play during and after an emergency—from tenant relations to building operations.

Hill says his team’s approach can be compared to a sports team’s playbook—they leverage the same skills each time, but have different strategies in place for different emergencies. “You have to prepare for every possible scenario,” Hill says. “Being located in New York City, we never expected to deal with an earthquake or a hurricane, but we still had a plan for both.” Those plans came in handy when the Mid-Atlantic was shaken by an earthquake in 2011, and again a year later when Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard. The property team communicated closely with tenants prior to Hurricane Sandy’s approach, sending weather updates and sharing emergency procedures. “Communication is absolutely key, and making sure people not just are safe, but also feel safe, is a critical part of good tenant relations,” Hill adds.

The building team does everything it can to help tenants feel more prepared for an emergency. For example, tenants are invited to participate in active shooter scenario trainings held by the NYPD each year. The building also is never left unguarded—tenants are free to access the property at any time, any day of the year.

Times Square Tower was one of the first buildings to install turnstiles at its entrances and to screen everyone coming through the doors. Boston Properties’ Director of Life Safety and Security Neil Spadaro says the security process has constantly evolved over the years, gradually incorporating new technologies. Boston Properties currently is rolling out a system that allows building tenants to e-mail secure building passes to guests in advance in order to streamline the arrival process. Despite these updates, Spadaro says there’s no substitute for old-fashioned legwork. “I would advise any property manager who wants to make their building safer to simply do regular walk-throughs,” Spadaro explains. “You need to make sure security measures are properly in place, and you can get a better sense for behavior patterns in the building.”

Boston Properties’ constant drive for improvement is part of what prompted them to put several of their New York buildings through the BOMA 360 program. “BOMA 360 takes a holistic approach in assessing a building, which makes it an extremely valuable tool to judge your success against the marketplace,” says Hill. “This is especially important in a highly competitive market like New York, where excellence in the criteria measured by BOMA 360 has a measurable impact on a building’s reputation and success.”