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Natsios Young Architects


24 May 2010

Source: http://fraser.stlouisfed.org/docs/historical/martin/27_02_19570801.pdf

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26 April 2010. Updated.

24 April 2010

The gold vault in the Federal Reserve Bank New York is reportedly the largest gold depository in the world. Yet compared to other major gold vaults, such as the one at Fort Knox, it appears lightly secured. There are one or two guards at the loading dock which connects to the vault. Because the building is located in a dense urban area, its walls and entrances abut sidewalks without security barriers like those at other bullion depositories. The site of the building slopes such that the topmost levels of fve basements where the vaults are located directly adjoins two streets, albeit there are reinforced concrete walls with steel face plates as well as interior alarm systems protecting the hoard. (See note below on basement levels and wall thicknesses.)

Copies of the original 1922 construction drawings of the facility, publicly available at Avery Architectural Library, Columbia University, were obtained by Cryptome. A floor plan of a vault level is provided below.

From The Key to the Gold Vault:

The gold you see in the vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York attracts more than 25,000 visitors a year. It is the world’s largest accumulation of gold and belongs to 36 foreign governments, central banks and official international organizations. Only a very small portion of this gold belongs to the U.S. government. The Federal Reserve Bank does not own the precious metal but serves as guardian for the nations and ernational organizations that choose to leave their monetary gold reserves in the Bank’s custody. It is estimated that the gold in the vault represents a significant portion of all the monetary gold that has ever been mined.

The gold stored at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is secured in a most unusual vault. It rests on the bedrock of Manhattan Island—one of the few foundations considered adequate to support the weight of the vault, its door, and the gold inside—80 feet below street level and 50 feet below sea level [See note below].

The Bank stores gold in the form of bars that resemble construction bricks and stacks them on wooden pallets like those used in warehouses. To reach the vault, the bullion-laden pallets must be loaded into one of the Bank’s elevators and sent down five floors below street level to the vault floor. The elevator’s movements are controlled by an operator who is in a distant room and communicates by intercom with the armed guards accompanying the shipment.

Once inside the vault, the gold bars become the responsibility of a control group consisting of representatives of three Bank divisions: Auditing, Vault Services, and Custody. A member of each division must be present whenever gold is moved or whenever anyone enters the vault.

Storing almost $194 billion of gold makes extensive security measures mandatory at the New York Fed. An important measure is the background investigation required of all Bank employees. Continuous supervision by the vault control group also prevents problems from arising by ensuring that proper security procedures are followed.

The Bank and its vaults are secured by the Bank’s own uniformed protection force. Twice a year, each federal officer must qualify with a handgun, shotgun and rifle at the Bank’s firing range. Although the minimum requirement is a marksman’s score, most qualify as experts.

Security is also enhanced by a closed-circuit television system and by an electronic surveillance system that alerts Central Watch when a vault door is opened or closed. The alarm system signals the officers to seal all security areas and Bank exits. This can be accomplished in less than twenty-five seconds.

The gold also is secured by the vault’s design, which is a masterpiece of protective engineering. The vault is actually the bottom floor of a three-story bunker of vaults arranged like strongboxes stacked on top of one another. The massive walls surrounding the vault are made of a steel-reinforced structural concrete.

There are no doors into the gold vault. Entry is through a narrow 10-foot passageway cut in a delicately balanced, nine-feet-tall, 90-ton steel cylinder that revolves vertically in a 140-ton, steel-and-concrete frame. The vault is opened and closed by rotating the cylinder 90 degrees. An airtight and watertight seal is achieved by lowering the slightly tapered cylinder three-eighths of an inch into the frame, which is similar to pushing a cork down into a bottle. The cylinder is secured in place when two levers insert large bolts, four recessed in each side of the frame, into the cylinder. By unlocking a series of time and combination locks, Bank personnel can open the vault the next business day. The locks are under “multiple control”—no one individual has all the combinations necessary to open the vault.

The weight of the gold—just over 27 pounds per bar—makes it difficult to lift or carry and obviates the need to search vault employees and visitors before they leave the vault. Nor do they have to be checked for specks of gold. Gold is relatively soft, but not so soft that particles will stick to clothing or shoes, or can be scraped from the bars. The Bank’s security arrangements are so trusted by depositors that few have ever asked to examine their gold.

That last phrase, "so trusted by depositors that few have ever asked to examine their gold," could suggest that the gold is not there, that it, or most of it, and has been moved elsewhere to leave the decoy for diversion. That could account for the light security of such great wealth.

There are reports that shortly after the attack on WTC truckloads of unidentified valuables were removed at night under heavyily-armed guard from the basement rubble and taken to places unknown. The threat to downtown Manhattan also might have led to moving the Federal Reserve gold horde to a safer location for assurance of its owners who could visit more discreetly. Whether any of the Federal Reserve gold was stored at WTC is unanswered. Whether there was a connecting tunnel between WTC basements and Federal Reserve basements is unknown, although an abandoned tunnel of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad along that route was exposed during WTC clean-up (two photos below).

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Tours of the gold vault were suspended after 9/11 due to security concerns and have been reinstitued only recently. Apprehension of the foreign gold owners about security surely outweigh all else and to leave the gold in a vulnerable high-value target location would be hard to accept. Moreover, as the Federal Reserve Bank states, "this is not American gold," suggesting there are more secure places for that than the celebrated Gold Vault. A deft ploy, nonetheless, to parade tourists through the facility for dramatic effect, to publish "The Key to the Gold Vault," to show token displays of gold bars and to brag of highly trained security forces for verisimilitude. A skeptical tourist, or gold owner, might ask for a complete tour of the three basement levels supposedly packed with foreign-owned gold. The bitter lessons in Wall Street deception began in this very neighborhood aided by the chairman of this very bank, now the US Treasury Secretary, abetted by light security for fictitious wealth.

Exterior photos by Cryptome, 16 October 2009 and as noted.


 
Gold Vault Federal Reserve Bank New York
Eyeball

 

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Four numbered photos below from The Key to the Gold Vault
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Basement A Partial Floor Plan

Cryptome Note on Basement Levels and Exterior Wall Thicknesses:

It is about 80 feet from the 1st Floor to the bottom of the five levels of Basements A, B, C, D and E -- the lowest. However, the top vault on Basement A is partially at street level on Nassau Street, Maiden Lane and William Street. The employee entrance on Basement A is at street level on Maiden Lane, some 15 feet below the 1st Floor due the site sloping from Liberty and Nassau Streets to Maiden Lane and William Street.

Note in the drawing below, at the corner of Liberty and Williams Streets, that Basement A exterior wall is showng about 3-feet thick, Basement B is 5-feet thick, the other three 8-feet thick. However, the drawings are not consistent. The floor plan of Basement A (above) shows exterior walls 8-feet thick, not 3 feet. The floor plan of Basement B shows walls 5-feet thick. The other floor plans show 8-feet thick walls. Changes may have been made during and/or after construction.

While the construction drawing for Basement A shows a vault it is not clear if gold is stored there or kept on more secure lower levels. Basement B drawing, for example, is annotated "For Future Vaults" and "Stationery & Supplies." The most secure levels would be Basements C through E.

There was no drawing of Basement E in the Avery Library sets examined. But the archive holds numerous drawings of the building not examined.

A distinctive feature of secure facilities is to compartmentalize responsibility, with later work being kept secret from those doing earlier work. Security and alarm systems installers are especially secretive about their systems and usually work after all others have left and do not share their confidential documents with building designers. Thus these public documents may be misleading to divert attention from what was constructed in 1922 and modified through the years.

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Loading Docks, Basement A Level, on Maiden Lane.

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Loading Docks, Basement A Level, on Maiden Lane. 22 September 2008.
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Google Street View of Loading Dock, Basement A, on Maiden Lane

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Employee Entrance, Basement A Level, on Maiden Lane

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North Elevation (Rear), on Maiden Lane

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West Elevation, on Nassau Street

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Front Entrance, South Elevation, on Liberty Street. Bottom photo August 20, 2007.

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South Elevation (Front), on Liberty Street

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East Elevation, on William Street

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Chairman Office and Board Room Floors