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33 Thomas Street

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Coordinates: 40°43′00″N 74°00′22″W / 40.71678°N 74.00610°W / 40.71678; -74.00610

33 Thomas Street
AT&T Long Lines Building
AT&T Long Lines building.jpg
General information
Architectural styleBrutalist
LocationManhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Roof550 ft (170 m)
Technical details
Floor count29
Design and construction
ArchitectJohn Carl Warnecke

33 Thomas Street (formerly the AT&T Long Lines Building) is a 550-foot-tall (170 m) skyscraper in Civic Center, Manhattan, New York City. It stands on the east side of Church Street, between Thomas Street and Worth Street. The building is an example of the Brutalist architectural style.

The building is a telephone exchange or wire center building which contained three major 4ESS switches[1] used for interexchange (long distance) telephony, two owned by AT&T[2][3] and one formerly owned by Verizon (decommissioned in 2009).[4] It also contains a number of other switches used for competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) services,[5] but is not used for incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) services, and is not a central office.[1] The CLLI code for this facility is NYCMNYBW.[6] The building is reportedly home to a National Security Agency surveillance facility.[7]


The Long Lines Building was designed by architect John Carl Warnecke and completed in 1974. As it was built to house telephone switching equipment, the average floor height is 18 feet (5.5 meters), considerably taller than in an average high-rise. The floors are also unusually strong, designed to carry 200 to 300 pound per square foot (10–15 kPa) live loads.[8]

The exterior walls are precast concrete panels clad with flame-treated textured Swedish granite faces. There are six large protrusions from the rectangular base which house air ducts, stairs and elevators. There is a series of large, protruding ventilation openings on the 10th and 29th floors.[9] William H. Whyte claimed that it features the tallest blank wall in the world.[10][11]

It is often described as one of the most secure buildings in America, and was designed to be self-sufficient with its own gas and water supplies along with generation capabilities and protected from nuclear fallout for up to two weeks after a nuclear blast.[12] Its style has been generally praised, with The New York Times saying it is a rare building of its type in Manhattan that "makes sense architecturally" and that it "blends into its surroundings more gracefully" than any other skyscraper nearby.[13]

View looking up from the adjacent street


The location was previously the site of cast-iron buildings, typical of the area, the facades of which were preserved prior to demolition.[12] The building was a core part of the AT&T Long Lines Department, housing solid-state switching equipment which required a high level of security and space. The Long Lines Department became AT&T Communications in 1984, after the Bell System divestiture. The AT&T Long Lines Building is now commonly known by its street address, 33 Thomas St., like many major New York City commercial buildings.[14]

AT&T gradually transitioned switches and other facilities from their former AT&T Long Lines headquarters building at 32 Sixth Avenue, just a few blocks away, completing the move by 1999.[15] 33 Thomas is still used for telephone switching, but some of the space is also used as highly secure datacenter space.

Street level view of the entrance to the building showing the elevated entry foyer

On September 17, 1991, management failure, power equipment failure, and human error combined to completely disable AT&T's central office switch at 33 Thomas. As a result, over 5 million calls were blocked, and Federal Aviation Administration private lines were also interrupted, disrupting air traffic control to 398 airports serving most of the northeastern United States. Because the building was designed to be self-sufficient, AT&T had a load shedding agreement with the electric utility, Consolidated Edison, where they would voluntarily switch from utility power to on-site generators on request. This was a routine procedure that had been performed successfully in the past, but on this occasion, it went wrong. After switching power sources, standard procedure was to check all the equipment power supplies, known as DC plants, for problems. But due to scheduled training, the check was not performed, and one plant went on battery backup. The alarms were not detected until it was too late to maintain uninterrupted power.[16]

After the destruction of the World Trade Center in the September 11, 2001 attacks, AT&T Local Services restored lost facilities they acquired from the former Teleport Communications Group based there, to 33 Thomas and 811 10th Avenue.[17]

33 Thomas was described as the likely location of an NSA mass surveillance hub codenamed TITANPOINTE in an investigation by The Intercept, and in a documentary short film by Henrik Moltke and Laura Poitras titled Project X, both drawing on the surveillance disclosures of Edward Snowden. The investigation ties the facility to a nearby FBI building, and its rooftop equipment to NSA's "SKIDROWE" satellite intelligence system.[18][7]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 33 Thomas appears in the movie Ghostbusters as a background in the scene where the containment is shut down and the building erupts with ghosts.
  • 33 Thomas is depicted as the headquarters of a global surveillance operation run by John Cerruti, played by Anthony Perkins, in the 1979 conspiracy satire Winter Kills.
  • Appears briefly in the 2000 crime-drama film Boiler Room where the Federal Bureau of Investigation are seen monitoring the lines of J.T. Marlin.
  • Long Lines is referred to by Teju Cole, in his first novel Open City, about New York.
  • Long Lines appeared on TV show Mr. Robot as a bank records storage facility of Evil Corp in season 3.
  • The building prominently appears in The X-Files, Season 11 episode 2.
  • It is the building where Clive Owen, playing detective Sal Frieland (46, Detective 1st Class), works in the 2018 Netflix movie Anon which takes place in an alternative future where augmented reality is omnipresent.
  • The building has been cited as inspiration for the Oldest House, the setting of the video game Control by Remedy Entertainment.
  • The building served as the inspiration for the Honeydew, Inc. building in the Yogscast Tekkit series.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Morris, John (July 21, 2009). "The Most Reclusive Building Downtown". Goodnight Raleigh. Retrieved April 2, 2013. It's a long distance exchange ... and not a CO, and houses three of the largest telephony switches ever created – 4ESS.....
  2. ^ "33 Thomas Street, owned by AT&T". Cylex Business Directory. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  3. ^ "33 Thomas St, New York, NY 10007, owned by AT&T". Yahoo listing. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  4. ^ "Retirement and Removal of Verizon Broadway 4ESS Tandem (NYCMNYBW21T)]" (PDF). Verizon. December 8, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 1, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2013. CLEC, IXC, IEC, wireless and paging carriers ...
  5. ^ "PUBLIC NOTICE OF NETWORK CHANGE UNDER RULE 51.329(A)" (PDF). Verizon. November 9, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 1, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 33 Thomas St (tandem) NYCMNYBW21T ... CLEC IXC, IEC, wireless and paging carriers will need to secure new trunk groups
  6. ^ "Search for Switches by (partial) CLLI Code". Telcodata.US. Retrieved July 25, 2007.
  7. ^ a b Gallagher, Ryan; Moltke, Henrik (November 16, 2016). "TITANPOINTE : The NSA's Spy Hub in New York, Hidden in Plain Sight". The Intercept. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  8. ^ "AT&T Long Lines Building". Emporis. Retrieved July 24, 2007.
  9. ^ "AT&T Long Lines Building". New York Architecture Images. Archived from the original on August 7, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2007.
  10. ^ Roberts, Sam (February 20, 1989). "Urban Dance: Choreographing The City Streets; New York pedestrians, an expert says, 'walk fast and they walk adroitly'". The New York Times. p. B1.
  11. ^ White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000), AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.), New York: Three Rivers Press, ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5, p. 76
  12. ^ a b "New York Scrapers – International Style III". Great Archived from the original on June 30, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2007.
  13. ^ Goldberger, Paul (October 8, 1982). "The TriBeCa Scene: Architecture, Restaurants and Bargain Hunting; The TriBeCa Scene: The Flavor Is Found in the Architecture". The New York Times. p. C1.
  14. ^ "Lower Manhattan Subway Map" (PDF). MTA New York City Transit. 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 12, 2007. Retrieved July 25, 2007.
  15. ^ Weiss, Lois. "Rudins". Archived from the original on February 10, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2007.
  16. ^ United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce (1992). Review of Telephone Network Reliability and Service Quality Standards. pp. iv to v.
  17. ^ "WTC Tenant Relocation Summary". TenantWise. Archived from the original on March 20, 2006. Retrieved July 25, 2007.
  18. ^ Dwyer, Jim (November 17, 2016). "National Security Agency Said to Use Manhattan Tower as Listening Post". The New York Times.
  19. ^

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