Today’s news:

Exchange announces plans to move out of LIC

After more than six months of trading sugar, coffee and other commodities out of a back-up space in Long Island City, the New York Board of Trade has announced plans to return to Manhattan within about a year.

The board’s president, Mark Fichtel, revealed in an open letter dated March 20 that NYBOT is expected to move into the building owned by the New York Mercantile Exchange at 1 North End Ave. in Lower Manhattan by the first quarter of 2003.

“The resolution of this phase of our recovery from the attack of Sept. 11 marks a major milestone and step forward for NYBOT,” Fichtel wrote.

Six days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks destroyed its trading floor in 4 World Trade Center, the board reopened on an abbreviated trading schedule in its cramped Long Island City emergency quarters at 23-10 43rd Ave.

Although the back-up office sat for five years “collecting dust,” as many of the exchange’s members used to say, the $300,000 facility ultimately saved millions by allowing the market to reopen rapidly after September’s terrorist attack.

According to Fichtel’s letter, NYBOT’s board of directors voted unanimously last week to drop its pursuit of two other alternatives to focus exclusively on becoming a tenant of NYMEX, the main terms of which have already been negotiated.

NYBOT would lease about 13,000 square feet on the trading floor of COMEX, a precious metals exchange, in addition to 35,000 square feet of office space in the NYMEX building.

Fichtel expects the deal to be complete in one-to-three months, once a “final, formal agreement” is drafted with NYMEX and the government has given a “firm commitment” of aid for the installation of technology in the space.

The New York Board of Trade, which was established in 1998 by the merger of two other exchanges, is now one of the largest futures exchanges in the country, trading the commodities of coffee, sugar, cocoa, cotton and orange juice.

Where the World Trade Center offered 12,500 square feet of space with 13 pits for trading, the temporary facility opened Sept. 17 with two pits crammed into 3,000 square feet on the first story of the small Long Island City office building owned by Comdisco, an emergency services company.

Since then, four more pits were created for a total of six, meaning two pits are now being used all day for sugar trading, two are shared by cocoa and orange juice, and the last two are split between cotton and coffee.

Two pits are necessary for any commodity to be traded — one for futures, the other for options. When only two pits were available, each commodity had a time slot of an hour an -a half to trade, but the addition of the new pits has allowed much longer trading times.

Plans to build another two pits in Long Island City were put on hold in anticipation of moving out by next year.

NYBOT spokesman Guy Taylor said trading has been running “near the regular volumes” from the Long Island City space.

“That’s the impressive thing about this story,” Taylor said. “We were at a back-up site with fewer trading pits that were working on fewer hours, but we still maintained the same volume.”

Taylor said the trading spaces that have been created in the Long Island City building will likely be maintained as a back-up facility once operations resume in Manhattan.

“I have yet to meet a trader or a clerk or anyone who hasn’t been extremely thankful that we had a back-up site to go to, because that backup site saved our business and saved their jobs,” Taylor said.

Nonetheless, “all of the members and staff are ready to find a permanent home,” Taylor added.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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