Security measure that looks like claws coming out of the sidewalk

On a recent visit to NYC to see some art gallery exhibitions, I was walking west on 31st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues when I noticed these things … looking like claws coming up out of the sidewalk. I can’t say I’ve seen or noticed these before, even though I’m in this neighborhood on a somewhat regular basis. So what are they? Scroll down for more.

Heald Raptor Retractable Bollard NYC
Retractable bollards seen on West 31st Street in NYC.

If you look closely at the picture above, there’s little rectangular “labels” at the base of each of these things, and they read “Heald Raptor,” with info about their patent application numbers. They are defined as “retractable bollards,” which are solid vertical posts that are meant to provide protection from unwanted impacts, such as vehicle collisions. In this case, they are retractable because they are in front of a truck loading area at the James A. Farley Building, so they can both protect the building as a security measure but also slide down into the ground so that trucks can come and go at the loading dock. You can see how one of them has been retracted into the ground, below right.

Heald Raptor Bollard on 31st Street NYC
Heald Raptor Bollards in front of the loading dock at the James A. Farley Building in NYC.

So how strong are these things? The patent protected Raptor Barrier system was crash tested and successfully stopped a 7.5 ton truck traveling at 50 mph, with zero penetration and remained fully functional (as far as being able to operate and retract) after impact. Wow, that’s some serious security, and some incredible engineering and design!

A little more info on the James A. Farley Building, which takes up two full city blocks, an 8-acre footprint! It’s a mixed-use structure (with an entrance on 8th Avenue, across from Madison Square Garden), which formerly served as the city’s main United States Postal Service branch. The building is a designated landmark, designed by McKim, Mead & White in the Beaux-Arts style (read more about the history of this building here).

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