A Look Into the Internet's Innards at 60 Hudson St., Tribeca's Telecom Hub

Some of the servers of a cloud hosting company housed on the fifth floor of 60 Hudson Street. More than 350 companies lease space for their equipment in the telecommunications hub. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Posted
Dec. 07, 2019

More than likely your next trip along the Information Superhighway—to make a call, send a text, Google something, or read this—will take you to an on-ramp at Tribeca’s 60 Hudson Street. The former Western Union Building is one of the country’s most important hubs of internet connectivity, housing more than 350 telecommunications and data service providers, with their countless miles of fibre optics cables that route voices, videos and data of all kinds to networks around the globe.

While the 1928 Ralph Walker-designed structure is a well-known Downtown landmark, the building’s internet innards upstairs are secreted off in super-secure warrens of wires, cabinets and blinking boxes that few humans ever see. (Even the building’s pristinely maintained landmark lobby is off limits to the public.) 

But last week the curtain opened ever so slightly for a rare glimpse at some of the backup batteries and generators, water pumps, servers, switches, and transformers that are, in other words, what the internet looks like. And sounds like.

In 2010, after the city’s Department of Buildings and Department of Correction vacated the building, the firm DataGryd leased 120,000 square feet on two floors for the transmission equipment of tenants plus another 50,000 square feet for supporting infrastructure, making them the building’s single largest tenant. One floor is fully leased to service providers, and a “data hall” on the 6th floor is completed and waiting to be rented, while other spaces are still raw. 

“We build out the infrastructure, provide the power and it’s ready to move in,” said Thomas Brown, DataGryd’s president and CEO. 

And these days, he noted, many more companies can fit their gear in smaller spaces. “Equipment has become smaller and more powerful over the years, so providers need less space, and more can be housed on a floor.” Brown said. They’re taking more power but not taking up as much footprint.”

With DataGryd now marketing space on the 60,000-square-foot 6th floor, last week it allowed visitors upstairs to see its facilities.

On the leased 5th floor the servers of high-profile financial institutions, internet companies and other data-intensive firms are locked behind rows of cages, amid the roar of hundreds of fans that cool the equipment. (DataGryd asked that the tenants’ not be identified.) Photographs of the server cages are normally not permitted and some companies are so secretive about their equipment that they hide it behind curtains. But at DataGryd’s request, one cloud hosting company allowed the Trib to photograph its servers. 

Below is a look at some of the equipment that helps keep millions of people connected through 60 Hudson Street.