This $90M View Could Slice into Your Sunshine

Monday, April 14, 2014

Extell's tower at 157 W 57th Street (tallest building on the right) is 1,004 feet tall. Extell's tower at 157 W 57th Street (tallest building on the right) is 1,004 feet tall. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

A growing coalition of preservationists and neighbors want Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to protect Central Park from shadows emanating from the new super slim towers rising around 57th street. 

"Some of the new buildings planned for the area around Central Park will be as tall as the antenna on the Empire State Building," said New York author Warren St. John.


Central Park shadowed by tall buildings around 2 p.m. in early spring.  (Janet Babin/WNYC)


St. John noticed the shadows while at Heckscher Playground with his daughter. He saw other parents so that they wouldn't miss out on the sunshine.

"They went home, they kind of called it a day. It's almost like the sun set," he said.


Warren St. John wants to limit luxury towers near Central Park South. (Janet Babin/WNYC)

Outraged, he wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times that started something of a movement against the tall buildings. A Facebook page he created called Stop the Central Park Supertowers has garnered more than 1,000 likes.

A few months after St. John wrote the Op-Ed, the Municipal Arts Society did a case study that found the six new hyper-tall luxury towers being built around Central Park will block views of the sky from several locations in the park and will shroud the carousel, ball fields, zoo and other key features throughout the day.

"The thing about these towers is they surprised everyone, both because of the way that development rights were accumulated but also because the technology allowed for very tall towers that maybe five or six years ago would not have been possible," said Margaret Newman, executive director of the Municipal Arts Society.


Extell Development Company's soaring condo tower ONE57, seen from the offices of the Municipal Arts Society (Janet Babin/WNYC)

The ultra-slim buildings were constructed "as of right," which means no public input or zoning changes were needed in order for them to be built. Developers often cobble together development and air rights from other buildings that aren't using them in order to reach such dizzying heights. The transactions are opaque, but are completely legal and do not trigger a public review process.

"When someone begins amassing a large number of zone or air rights, where these sites were separate zoning lots put together to make one large lot, that should trigger a review of some kind, and that doesn't happen now," said Newman.

In addition to ONE57, Extell Development Company is also hoping to erect an uber-slim 1,400 ft. tall building at 217 W. 57th St. that will cantilever over the American Fine Arts Society building, unless the project is halted by a lawsuit filed by some of the Society's members.

Extell readily admitted that collecting the development rights to build to such heights was an intricate process.

"We had at least 20 transactions to assemble [ONE57], maybe more. We started buying air rights, we had to get out a number of tenants that were protected, after 10 years we finally had a site," said Extell's president Gary Barnett.



Extell noted that its projects bring economic development and much-needed jobs to the city, in addition to transfer and sales taxes.

"All these taxes add up to at least $3 billion over the next 20 years and provide funding for other government functions," said Barnett.

The Municipal Arts Society and some community groups are calling for de Blasio and the City Council to enhance zoning laws, so that when a large number of development rights are purchased by one entity, the transactions are scrutinized.



Courtesy of the Municipal Arts Society of New York
Courtesy of the Municipal Arts Society of New York
Courtesy of the Municipal Arts Society of New York
Courtesy of the Municipal Arts Society of New York
Courtesy of the Municipal Arts Society of New York


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Comments [14]

The motto of the central park conservancy is 'you gotta have park.' And i couldn't agree more. I grew up here and thank God for central park.

There were a bunch of people commenting on another article on this topic on npr, saying "boo hoo- if you don't like the shadows then move out of NYC, that's what NY is about, tall buildings and to complain about that is ridiculous."

But just because someone lives in NYC, doesn't mean they aren't human. I don't like living here, but my folks raised me here and now I have to live here to be near my parents and doctors because I am disabled with a disease they don't really treat many other places, and nowhere else affordably. What about all the kids who grow up in NYC- they have no choice but to live here. They deserve sunshine.

It's ridiculous- these 7 buildings are all planned at 900 to 1400 feet- roughly 90 to 140 normal stories casting huge shadows over residential areas and mostly the park, to benefit a few people. I am not happy and all those who say 'boo hoo', I am sure you wouldn't want to live perpetually in the shadow of a phalanx of 100+ story towers.

Let's STOP these grotesque towers NOW!!

May. 24 2014 08:48 AM
Joanne from NYC

Where was the Municipal Arts Society and Central Park Conservancy (with it exceedingly wealthy membership...get it?) etc. when all this was happening? They knew the repercussions, and did not speak up. The rich support the rich, can't blame Bill D. for the past, this development came from bully Bloomberg's 12 year reign, he way over developed this city, always seemed to get his way, then acted like a petulant child with his slick, smart ass answers for the cameras when anyone dared to question him... all these wealthy developers seemed to have carte blanche to do as they pleased. Where were the City Planners, how could they not know this? The list of those responsible for these towering monstrosities is endless. SHAME ON ALL OF THEM... who exactly did the represent here?

Apr. 15 2014 01:22 PM
Nick from UWS

I may leave this city. The people who run it are garbage, the people who own it are garbage, the people who control it are garbage, the people who sell it out are garbage, the people who buy into it are garbage, the architects who are building garbage and who are ruining every vista are garbage. Fuck them all, may they all rot in hell. Did you ever see such crappy eyesore garbage as that Extell building? Shockingly putrid.

Apr. 14 2014 11:35 PM
TourguideStan from Central Park

I am a sightseeing guide with a great deal of experience in showing off Central Park's best features. On 1/4/14 on a walking tour of the park, I witnessed the shadow of One57, which was cast half a mile into the park at about 3 PM. It extended all the way to the Band Shell, close to the 72nd St transverse. I have photos to prove this.
Snow needs sunlight in order to melt.
True, the top of the shadow may pass in a few minutes, but the middle will take twice as long.If more of these towers rise, the freeze/thaw cycle will be affected.
I'll be conducting a weekly tour for the Municipal Arts Society on this topic. Please get in touch with me for input, or info you'd like me to disseminate on the tour.

Apr. 14 2014 02:34 PM
Dave Kanzeg from Cleveland

Where is Ada Louise Huxtable when we need her!?!?!

Apr. 14 2014 01:46 PM
David from Bronx

People in well to do areas worried about higher wealth

Apr. 14 2014 11:41 AM
smith from Washington, D.C.

Majority of the voters elected DeBlasio so they should have known what they were getting. Too late now to COMPLAIN!! DeBlasio will destroy Manhattan just like the USA is being destroyed by the occupant of the White House.

Apr. 14 2014 11:20 AM
Susan from Brooklyn

And of course Extell only undertook this project for the "public good". There are much better ways to employ people and raise taxes. Tax the rich and build affordable housing and don't throw shadows on the park!

The super rich will not be happy until they destroy this city.

Apr. 14 2014 11:17 AM
Meme from NYC

regarding the Central Park South building, it's not pretty.
It doesn't blend into the scenery, it doesn't even look like something that belongs on that row and it kills the Essex House which looks like an awkward dwarf next to it.
The project en mass looks ill planned and ill considered and very inconsiderate of New York City.
I get that we need to move into the next century but no one ever said it should look so busy-looking (ugly).
So sad to see this kind of development spill into the outer boroughs.

Apr. 14 2014 11:04 AM

Hehe --- The horse looks MUCH more comfy in that shade!

Apr. 14 2014 10:31 AM
alan spector from manhattan

Shawdows are already cast on the east side by the dangling crane monstrosity. Don't count on DeBlasio. H e supports developers who lust after horse stable properties on the west side. This is why he wants to abolish horse drawn carriages.

Apr. 14 2014 10:02 AM
David from New Jersey

New York City specifically the borough of Manhattan is becoming a bigger mess day by day.

Apr. 14 2014 08:08 AM
Ignatz from Upper West Side

The buildings are ugly as hell, too. We should shame the residents for their hideous lack of taste. They spent 90 mill to live in something ugly with no artistic value whatsoever? They ARE aware that there's beautiful architecture in New York, right?

Apr. 14 2014 08:04 AM
Michael baltzer from NYC

The only way this will stop is if the trees and other plants in the park start to die off from a lack of sunlight... Don't count on the inhabitants of these kinds of buildings to care about the rights of the people. It's something out of Kafka.

Apr. 14 2014 08:00 AM

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