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Archive for Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Critics: Office tower would encroach on Empire State Building

August 24, 2010

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The Empire State Building is seen in New York In this May 29, 2008, file photo. The New York City Council is considering a proposal for a nearby glass office tower that would rise almost as high as the iconic 79-year-old structure.

The Empire State Building is seen in New York In this May 29, 2008, file photo. The New York City Council is considering a proposal for a nearby glass office tower that would rise almost as high as the iconic 79-year-old structure.

— Look at Manhattan from afar, and the first thing you notice is the Empire State Building, spiking like a needle above the carpet of skyscrapers that coats Manhattan from tip to tip.

Now it’s got some competition — a proposal for a nearby glass office tower that would rise almost as high and alter the iconic skyline.

The tower would spoil the famous view of the 102-story skyscraper for millions of tourists, the Empire State Building’s owner, Anthony Malkin, testified Monday at a City Council hearing. It “defines New York,” he said.

“We view this as an assault on New York City and its iconography,” said Malkin, whose grandfather founded the Malkin Holdings company. It’s “the end of the image of New York City that billions of people hold dear.”

The City Council is to vote this week on whether to allow a developer to erect a 67-story tower that’s only 34 feet lower than the 79-year-old Empire State Building, the city’s tallest skyscraper.

The proposed tower’s developer, David Greenbaum, says 15 Penn Plaza would provide critically needed and state-of-the-art office space to midtown Manhattan, creating at least 7,000 new jobs.

“The fact is, New York City’s skyline has never stopped changing, and I certainly hope it never will,” testified Greenbaum, president of Vornado Realty Trust’s New York chapter.

The council’s Zoning and Franchises subcommittee planned to vote today on whether to change rules. If they OK the plan, the final word would lie with the City Council — unless Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who holds veto power, objects.

The building would stand two blocks west of the Empire State Building on the site of the current Hotel Pennsylvania on Seventh Avenue, steps from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.

Renderings of the proposed building portray a skyscraper shaped like a giant chisel atop a block. It tapers to a flat edge at the peak and is marked by a top-to-bottom groove on its face.

In his last-ditch effort to change the plans, Malkin — who also owns a stake in Vornado — appealed to subcommittee members to make 15 Penn Plaza no more than 825 feet high, about two-thirds of the originally proposed size. He also asked that it be streamlined to minimally obscure the view of the western side of the Empire State Building.

But the idea of even an 825-foot tower next to the 1,250-foot-tall Art Deco icon — 1,454 feet including its spire — disappointed some tourists.

“That would still be no good, because I like to look down at the streets of New York.” said LeeSa Snarr, 37 — who did so Monday from the 102nd floor.

Malkin told the subcommittee that the Empire State is “the No. 1 favorite building in the U.S., surpassing the White House.”

It was the tallest building in the world when completed in November 1930. King Kong scaled it in the 1933 movie and subsequent remakes; a B-25 bomber crashed into it in fog in 1945.

It became the city’s tallest building again after the World Trade Center was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.

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