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Council Approves New Skyscraper Near Empire State Building

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The New York City skyline will never be the same. But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn says that's a good thing.

By an overwhleming vote of 47-1, the City Council voted to allow a skyscraper to be built within four blocks of the Empire State Building in Midtown. Fifteen Penn Plaza will rise to a height just 34 feet shy of the observation deck of the iconic building, and will be visible from Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey -- and approaching airplanes landing at LaGuardia.

WNYC's Matthew Schuerman was present at the vote. He answers some questions about the development.

Matthew, the owners of the Empire State Building began attacking the proposed skyscraper publicly about a week ago, saying it would mar the city's skyline. How did the council react to that?

Some council members saw a change in the skyline actually as a good thing, not as a negative thing. It shows the city's vibrancy. "Our skyline is always changing and growing," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "New York City is not a stagnant city. It is never a place that will be frozen in time."  

This will provide about 6,000 construction jobs, temporary, and eventually house about 7,000 jobs. However, there isn't any timetable, so exactly when this economic vibrancy will show up on the skyline, we're not quite sure.   

This whole debate seemed to come out of nowhere, in a way. Fifteen Penn Plaza has been in the works for months and already got approvals from the City Planning Commission and Borough President Scott Stringer. Why was it so quiet?

I guess there was no really organized opposition, until about a week ago, when the Malkin family, the owners of the Empire State Building, decided they had to go public because this thing wasn't going to stop otherwise. They ended up not stopping it. Part of it is the Malkins were trying back channels, and trying to get fellow real-estate people in New York City to play along, and that didn't work. Part of it is that this isn't in a residential neighborhood, this is a commercial neighborhood, so there were no neighborhood groups that were advocating against it.

The vote doesn't seem like it was close at all -- 47 to 1. Who voted against it and why?

Charles Barron, a councilman from Brooklyn. "New York City is not about buildings," he said. "New York City is about people."  Now, he went on to explain that only 15 percent of the contracts that were going to go into building this building were going to go to minority and women-owned businesses, and saw that as a very low percentage when compared to Atlantic Yards and others, which are around 35 percent or so. But his dissent, in and of itself, was not unusual. He often dissents from all sorts of things, but that was his point of view.  

 

View of the Manhattan skyline with proposed skyscraper by Pelli Clarke Pelli. (Photo courtesy of Pelli Clarke Pelli)

 

View of the Manhattan skyline with proposed skyscraper by Pelli Clarke Pelli, by the detractors of the project. (Photo courtesy of Friends of NYC Skyline) 

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Comments [13]

Shawn from Maine

hey new yorkers we all need a change just like the cabinets on your wall or the paint on your ceilings we all need a change and up date things. The building proposed looks amazing and a wonderful asset to the new york sky line

Aug. 29 2010 07:37 AM
BILLION DOLLAR MAN from nyc

ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT NYC IS BUILT MOSTLY BY TINY BUILDINGS AND THE MAJORITY OF THEM LOOK ALIKE.(THEY ALL LOOK LIKE BOXES OR JUNK) "THERE IS NO SENCE OF REAL ARCHITECTURE"COMPARED TO THE MODERN ARCHITECTURE DESIGS IN CHINA AND DUBAI AND PERHAPS ALL OVER THE WORLD AS WE KNOW TODAY....... EVEN MY DOUGTHER,..... SHE IS ONLY FIVE CAN BE A BETTER ARCHITECTURE DESIGNER THAN THOSE SO CALLED ARCHITECTS FROM NY. AS AN EXAMPLE THEY DESING A SMALL TRIANGULAR OR RECTANGULAR SHAPE BLDG AND THEY IMMEDIATELLY GET APROVED TO BUILD IT. WELL THE FACT IS IN NYC THEY DONT HAVE THE FUTURISTIC SENCE OF SPIRIT EVEN POOR COUNTRIES ARE BUILDING BETTER, TALLER AND MORE MODERNISTIC PERHAPS EVEN MORE EFFICIENT BUILDING THAN NYC. I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE EVEN DONALD TRUMP SAID HIMSELF THAT ARCHITECTS ARE DESINGNING JUNK BLDGS IN NYC AND PERHAPS I AGREE WITH THAT. IM NOT SURPRISE WHY, BUT WHEN SOMETHING REALLY AMAZING IS DESINGNED AND PROPOSED TO BE BUILT ONE DAY, NO OFFENCE BUT THERE IS ALWAYS SOME IDIOTIC PEOPLE PROTESTING WITH SOME DUMB EXCUSES AGAINST MOST OF THE MODERNISTIC ROPOSALS JUST LIKE IT HAPPENED WITH THE PROPOSALS IN THE WEST SIDE RAIL YARDS, THOSE STUPID PEOPLE ARE NOW HAPPY THAT NOTHING WAS BEEN BUILT BECAUSE OF THEM AND PERHAPS THE RAIL YARDS STIILL LOOKS LIKE CRAP. HOWEVER IF IT WAS IN ANOTHER COUNTRY LIKE CHINA,KOREA,DUBAI AND OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, MANY OF THIS AMAZING DESING WOULD BE BUILT. SO IN OTHER WORDS NYC COULD HAVE A TOUCH OF MODERN SKYLINE INSTEAD OF OLD FASHIONED SMALL BOX SHAPPED BUILDINGS. WELL THERE ARE VERY FEW AND I MEAN VERY FEW MODERNISTIC BUILDING IN NYC COMPARED TO OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES. COME ON WE ARE LIVING IN THE PRESENT LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE NOT IN THE PAST. THIS DAY MANY HAD BEEN SPOKEN THAT CHINA OR DUBAI HAD THE GREATEST CITIES IN THE FUTURISTIC WORLD.....THATS THE PRESENT & THE FUTURE!!!!!

Aug. 27 2010 11:14 AM
Mike C from Hells Kitchen

The NYC financial industry is now taking back seat to London, and people are trying to find ways to work from home connected via the web. Building more office space when there is so much already available makes no sense. At some point reality will catch up with the real estate industry in NYC and it won't be pretty.

Aug. 27 2010 09:39 AM

I think it's way too big and why would we want something so unsightly to irrevocably mar the skyline? The argument of jobs and financial benefit to the area can be fulfilled with a lower structure. Once it's up, the unique character of the New York skyline will be forever diminished.

Aug. 26 2010 09:26 PM
Jose R Helena from Bronx, NYC

Zonings Allowances, Right building code compliances and under all district laws is impossible get any rejections, excellent case of study to get approvals in other similar case i.e.: MOMA Tower by J. Nouvel.

Aug. 26 2010 06:11 PM
je412 from mount vernon

it's way too big. we don't need such another large office tower in manhattan. it doesn't even look good, a big monolithic monster. it would be a terrible change to our skyline. I hope it doesn't find an anchor tenant and is never built. I hope it never sees "the light of day". why aren't more new yorkers opposing this, or aren't we being heard?

Aug. 26 2010 02:21 PM
Nick from UWS

What crap.

Aug. 26 2010 01:19 PM
Jac Zagoory from LES, NYC

Of course, it will "mar the city's skyline," the same way the Empire state building did in 1931. But now, the high paying tenants in the Empire State building who will face the new shinny obstruction will be demanding a rent reduction when their "unobstructed view" turns into a "guaranteed view" of the new building. Interestly, it will most likely seem like twin towers from a distance.

Aug. 26 2010 10:34 AM
MikeInBrklyn from clinton hill

Why not just knock down all buildings that are 100 years or older and replace them with glass and steel skyscrapers? Then NYC will be as interesting a place architecturally as Hong Kong and Tokyo, no? Then tourist will stop visiting Rome and Prague and come here to break their necks in an attempt to see the top of these monstrosities. Sunglasses vendors will be very happy. While we are at it, I suggest we replace the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty with modern versions. Then we will be those most cutting edge city in the world. Whoopie!!!

Aug. 26 2010 10:27 AM
MKT from Inwood

Why do all of Pelli's recent big projects look the same? Hong Kong, Jersey City...

And NYC's tourism is not going to be boosted by yet another not particularly interesting skyscraper.

Aug. 26 2010 09:32 AM
JSF from lower east side

Another uninspired building. If they're going to build something, why can't they design something worth looking at?

Aug. 26 2010 08:57 AM
dw12ate from brooklyn

Charlie hong is right on. dw12ate

Aug. 26 2010 08:02 AM
charlie hong

Glad to hear the project has been approved. The city grows day by day and we need to keep adding to the citys mystique and beauty. I think the city needs more buildings that can reach the sky. We are behind other countries/cities in developing porperties. We want to attract tourism. Our citys economy always needs a boost in any which way possible. I, as well as, many people living in NY and NJ, will look forward to the day a new building touches the sky.

Aug. 25 2010 06:59 PM

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