Save Our Skyline, Begs Empire State Building

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We know hackers and preservationists are staunchly opposed to Vornado’s 15 Penn Plaza, because the 1,216-foot Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed tower would replace McKim Mead & White’s notable-if-not-renowned Hotel Pennsylvania. Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Holdings, is also not a fan for the simple reason that Malkin Holdings is holding the Empire State Building. And its views would most likely be compromised by 15 Penn Plaza. Malkin is now speaking out against the project, under the aegis of a group calling itself Friends of the New York City Skyline, a posse which also includes MAS, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Landmarks Conservancy. It may be too little, too late.

Amanda Burden and the City Planning Commission already gave their approval in July, calling it “precisely the type of well-designed…office building that New York City needs to stay globally competitive.” Still, hoping to head off a vote on Monday at the City Council, Malkin and his Friends have sent around mawkish renderings and a statement (below) about everything that’s wrong with this building and how it could ruin the city.

15 Penn Plaza and the Empire State Building, with Hudson Yards in the foreground—hey, won’t that ruin the view, too?

Currently 15 Penn Plaza is 42 percent bigger than current zoning allows, with no setbacks, but at the same time, as garish as it looks in these renderings, it also shows the dynamic way in which our iconic skyline is always changing. Just think of the thrill you get looking back at old pictures of the city and comparing them to today. Even monstrosities like the Trump Wold Tower across from the U.N. look half-decent in this context. To build is to survive as a city and it’s good to know that, for better or worse, there are no sacred cows. After all, these were some of the same groups who complained when Burden cut Nouvel’s MoMA Tower down to size. Significantly, the tower is in Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s district, and she is an avowed friend to developers: Tenant or no tenant, building is in the cards.

Will Midtown ever be the same?

Malkin’s statement:

“The Empire State Building is the internationally recognized icon on the skyline of New York City. We are its custodians, and must protect its place. Would a tower be allowed next to the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben’s clock tower? Just as the world will never tolerate a drilling rig next to The Statue of Liberty, why should governmental bonuses and waivers be granted to allow a structure as tall and bulky at 15 Penn Plaza to be built 900 feet away from New York City’s iconic landmark and beacon?

We believe that the public approval process to date for the proposed 15 Penn Plaza has failed to address the interests of New Yorkers. The City Charter did not create the ULURP process so as to provide a speedy approval for a speculative office tower for which there is no planned commencement. The Developer’s Environmental Impact Statement at first ignored, and then (by last minute amendment) gratuitously denied, any impact on the largest landmark in New York City from the proposed 1,200 foot tower to rise at some unspecified future date on the present site of the Hotel Pennsylvania.

The people of New York City have already made their sentiments clear: Community Board 5 voted down this proposal 36 to 1, so the only hope for protection of this public legacy now sits with the City Council.

There may be buildings taller than the Empire State Building. But no building so close to the Empire State Building should be allowed through discretionary official exceptions to be as bulky and tall as 15 Penn Plaza. The height and bulk of 15 Penn Plaza are the result of waivers and bonuses greatly in excess of code. Another waiver granted 15 Penn Plaza the right to build without setbacks. At only 67 stories, 15 Penn Plaza would be as tall as the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, and would, if built, be as much a scar on the complexion of New York City as the loss of Penn Station.

We are working with other New Yorkers and concerned parties who care about this landmark to write and speak to the City Council and its Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on August 23 in opposition to this effort to mar permanently the iconic signature which creates the world’s most famous skyline.”

31 Responses to “Save Our Skyline, Begs Empire State Building”

  1. Ratman says:

    It’s time to change the skyline it’s already been more than a 70 year run for the esb come on man get with the fuckin times already sheesh…

  2. matt says:

    maybe so, but can’t we do it with a more attractive building?

  3. […] various renderings — many of which are collected at The Architect’s Newspaper Blog — range from dire to reasonable. Take a look, for example, at the view from New Jersey or the […]

  4. Jason says:

    That is the ugliest building I have ever seen. I understand that the skyline is always going to change, but hopefully the developers understand that something a little more visually appealing is due if it’s going to be one of the tallest structures in the city.

  5. […] to Stress Out the Empire State Building By J. DAVID GOODMAN via Architect’s Newspaper A rendering by those who oppose a new tower rivaling the Empire State […]

  6. Tom says:

    Meh. This is an ugly building. Since when has Capelli been a part of SOM?

    Sure, build here. But, given the nature of the ESB and nearby structures, why not require this conform to the setback requirements in force in 1931? Then its form wouldn’t be so harsh next to the ESB.

    Sure, development may be good. But since big buildings are viewed by the public (or imposed on it), their impacts don’t end at the lot line. Taste is a hard thing to legislate or regulate. But this is one truly ugly building.

  7. maxim says:

    Part of the grandeur and beauty of the Empire bldg is its architectural profile on the city’s horizon. The construction of another immense tower so near the Empire is a short-sighted idea that destroys this unique skyline.

    For those who want a change of skyline, you can always move to Washington DC.

  8. The Green Jeep says:

    I fail to see why waivers were granted that permit such a massive structure. It’s simply a vast, block-like vertical warehouse. Until and unless the waivers are withdrawn the project is rightly opposed.

  9. Paul says:

    The ESB has become such an icon in everyone’s mind and eye that placing that
    monstrosity next to it would be like hanging the Mona Lisa on a wallpapered wall.
    But, our city is a constantly living, breathing and changing organism and we need to be comfortable with that. After all, this is New York dammit.
    Perhaps in future years we’ll look at old postcards of the singular tower and we’ll
    say: “I remember that”.

  10. Ratman says:

    These renderings don’t even look like the real thing, they made it look ugly…. trust me the official renderings look good….

  11. propaganda says:

    This is bs propaganda being spread by people who don’t want competition. They should actually make the new tower taller then the Empire State building, and also place a spire on it. We need a new landmark.

  12. llny says:

    Not opposed to building up around ESB, but with another reproduction of the Pelli “electric shaver” highrise?! There’s already one of those in Newark , Hong Kong and one under construction in San Fransisco – they all look so similar. If we are going to build up the NY skyline, let’s do it with a little more creativity and uniqueness…

  13. […] After being approved by the City Planning Commission in July, plans for a 1,200-foot tower just two avenues away from the Empire State Building are being reviewed by the City Council. If passed, the tower at 15 Penn Plaza would be a huge change to the New York City skyline. And the Empire State Building isn’t happy about it. Anthony Malkin of Malkin Holdings, an ESB owner, wrote to the City Council: […]

  14. peter little says:

    Who remembers old Penn Station?
    This new tower would be the second most dreadful self-maiming that the city has done since tearing down the great old Penn Station.

  15. Laura Gottwald says:

    This is not the first Empire State Building blocker! Check out the boring, immense apartment building on the north side of 31st Street between Fifth & B’way.

    Its time to value, preserve and re-think this charming, spunky neighborhood, which has as strong a character as Soho! We have Beaux Arts masterpieces everywhere you look, yet they’re getting destroyed or botched daily. There’s nothing wrong with the Pennsylvania Hotel that a great designer and developer couldn’t re-think. Consider the Royalton, the Mercer, and our own adorable and immensely successful Ace Hotel.

  16. bugs says:

    Can we get some shaving cream with that! Looks like my electric razor….

  17. […] In case you've missed it, the battle over New York's identity crisis is ramping up. Starting back in the spring of this year, plans were unveiled for the new 15 Penn Plaza building that's roughly the size of the Empire State Building. Therein lies the problem. The building would be just blocks away from the iconic Empire State and from all the important angles, would potentially muddy the skyline, blending the two towers into one big mass of building. As with any big skyscaper project, there are a million hurdles to overcome between the current planning stages and opening the front door for the first time, particularly financially, but as it looks like the developers will be getting the okay from the city (there's to be a vote this week), groups opposed to the building and its skyline-damaging potential, are speaking up. To get yourself up to speed, here's a great, quick recap of the project and the surrounding controversy over at the NY Times' City Room blog, and another from the Architect's Newspaper. […]

  18. owen says:

    This debate is not about size, it is about aesthetics and hypocrisy:

    Tall buildings can look wonderful next to each other – 40 wall street and 70 Pine street downtown are each the height of the Chrysler building yet dance together because they are both graceful towers. Pelli’s building is a fat dog. They should make it taller and thinner.

    Hypocrisy? Isn’t this the same Amanda Burden that truncated Nouvels’s beautiful design because it wasn’t aesthetically fit to rival the Empire State?

    As a zoo full of political animals like Ms. Burden, it is a miracle that anything beautiful gets built in New York.

  19. Paul says:

    In the world of real estate development, bigger is better. I would like the designer and developers to take a more humble& modest, perhaps complimentary approach to their design planned so close to the iconic ESB.
    If the size of Pelli’s building is profit driven, they do NYC a disservice. If they build it as designed, they do NYC a disservice.
    If it was 1/2 the size, it might compliment the ESB at the very least.
    Just say no!

  20. citydweller says:

    I hope they erect the building just to piss off the Mother Teresa hating owners of the Empire State Building. Besides, it couldn’t wreck the skyline anymore than it is now. The westside skyline in midtown is a mishmash of ugliness. More to come soon when they start the railyard projects. Very disappointing. That’s what happens when you let big developers run amuck unchecked.

  21. […] that the the new building will decrease some of the older building’s legendary allure. From certain angles the new building will overlap the Empire State Building, taking away a lot of its dramatic […]

  22. Gene Walton says:

    This building looks awfully familiar to the Goldman Headquaters in Jersey City. Do we really need a dupe for the skyline. I have no problem with the mass, just be a little more original instead of putting up some cookie-cutter bs in Manhattan.
    Let’s see some real original Italian design.

  23. Urbain, trop urbain says:

    C’est une honte. Pourquoi #NYC aurait une tour de Cesar Pelli comme celle-ci, alors qu’il a fait la même à Hong Kong ?

  24. RG says:

    It could be worst. Image a 1,450-foot version of the “The Gherkin” in London blocking the ESB.

  25. RG says:

    It could be worse. Image a 1,450-foot version of the “The Gherkin” in London blocking the ESB.

  26. Jim says:

    Sounds a lot like the whining and moaning when the Vietnam War Memorial was built on the National Mall. If you want 1940’s skylines, watch old movies. The world is passing us by.

  27. DMONT says:

    Los ICONOS deben permanecer o en su defecto cambiarlos (renovarlos) por nuevos ICONOS mas no por edificaciones sin valor ICÓNICO alguno .
    Empire State se ha ganado con el tiempo el tìtulo de “Landmark” de la Ciudad de Nueva York y es una de las siluetas mas representativas dentro de el catàlogo de los rascacielos de todos los tiempos…es un abuelo “Memorable”.

    Arquitecto Jaime Domìnguez M.-Mèxico

  28. […] from […]

  29. […] The people who own the Empire State Building say the city should block the new building to “save our skyline” and, by sheer coincidence, allow their building to maintain the competitive advantage of […]

  30. Avon says:

    It’s ugly!
    Pelli has done some things one might love to look at, but this isn’t one of them.

    All of the arguments for a changing city, and against treating the ESB as a sacred cow, make a lot of sense. But none of them can excuse a repulsively banal design where an equally massive and tall building could be interesting, complementary, and/or even artistically rich. And that’s even more true within the “personal space” of an existing icon of established value.

    The only even remotely interesting (distracting?) question this design imposes is where exactly its foreskin begins. There is no excuse good enough for plunking this embarrassing a building into New York City.

  31. […] approved a new building that will alter the appearance of the New York City skyline despite protest by the owners of the Empire State Building. What do you think? Is this just part of the cyclical nature of urban development/redevelopment? […]

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