This week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey decided to tackle a "great concern": china patterns at a small, local retailer, Fishs Eddy.
The varied dishes, cups and bowls feature cartoonish renditions of New York City landmarks. The Authority believes Fishs Eddy is “unfairly reaping a benefit from an association with the Port Authority and the attacks [of Sept 11]” because of their use of said china patterns, claiming they "evoke thoughts of the Port Authority, the twin towers, W.T.C. and the September 11th terrorist attacks."
"Your use of the Port Authority’s assets on dinnerware and other items is of great concern to the Port Authority," reads a July 24 cease and desist letter to the shop from Veronica Rodriguez, a lawyer for the Port Authority.
There are two china patterns in question, both of which have been on sale for about 13 years. The first, and one of the most popular at the store, is "212." This pattern shows the New York City skyline, featuring landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center, and Grand Central Station. The second pattern, "Bright and Tunnel," shows images of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, as well as various city bridges.
The Port Authority believes these landmarks, and even cartoonish renditions of them, are their "assets." The letter asks Fishs Eddy to stop the sale of anything with the landmarked "assets" and to "destroy all materials, documents and other items bearing the assets."
The Wire stopped by Fishs Eddy on Tuesday afternoon to find two shoppers floating around the 212 area, both looking for gifts for out of towners. One shopper rolled her eyes when asked who owns the skyline, "Definitely not the Port Authority." Another shopper laughed at the idea of anyone claiming the skyline as an asset. "What're they going to do? Add a trademark to the sky? Everyone who lives here gets to use the skyline, its ours."
The owners of Fishs Eddy, Julie Gaines and her husband David Lenovitz, feel the same way. They told The New York Times, "Are they going to stop everyone from using the trade center in the skyline? If so, they’d better get going." In the visit to the store today, Gaines told reporters she planned on fighting the cease and desist.
At the same time, the Port Authority does not seem to take issue with the vast variety of objects sold at the 9/11 Memorial gift shop. This gift shop recently opened, fully stocked with a variety of items using the Authority's "assets," including a 9/11 cheese platter (though this object has since been pulled) and a silk scarf showing the towers.
A spokesperson for the Port Authority has said they will be targeting other businesses using their "assets" and that Fishs Eddy is not alone in receiving the cease and desist. The Wire contacted Grand Slam New York, a shop which sells a variety of products depicting the skyline, and they replied they had not received a letter of this sort. John Varvatos also sells a t-shirt depicting the skyline, and while a sales associate did not have any information about a potential cease and desist letter, they did tell us it was still for sale and they were not aware of any issues. The Wire contacted the Port Authority to learn which other retailers were targeted with cease and desist letters, however, they would not comment on the matter.
As for claiming the city skyline as an "asset," attorney Randy Kessler told The Wire in a phone interview that the Port Authority is facing an "uphill battle." Kessler noted that a city cannot reasonably "own" a skyline, as they don't own all of the buildings, but they may just be seeking an out-of-court settlement from Fishs Eddy.
Fishs Eddy did face a cease and desist from Tishman Speyer Properties and the Travelers Group, which own the Chrysler Building, in 1998. The Chrysler Building remains on the 212 china.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.