Wed, Aug 25, 2010 - Page 7 News List

New York icon cries foul over proposed rival

REACHING FOR THE SKY? The Big Apple’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, supports a plan to build a tower almost as tall as the Empire State Building only two blocks away from it


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.

Now it has 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 on Monday at a New York 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 council is to vote this week on whether to allow a developer to erect a 67-story tower that is only 10m 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 yesterday on whether to change rules. If they okay the plan, the final word would lie with the City Council — unless the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg objected.

Bloomberg supports the tower, which was approved by the New York City Planning Commission last month, spokesman Stu Loeser said late on Monday.

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 — designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects — 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 appealed to subcommittee members to make 15 Penn Plaza no more than 250m high, about two-thirds of the originally proposed size. In addition, he asked that it be streamlined to minimally obscure the view of the western side of the Empire State Building.

Greenbaum testified that he would work to help improve nearby transportation facilities, including wider rail platforms at Penn Station; provide better access to subway stations; and ease pedestrian and traffic congestion in the area.

He said he would reopen an underground passage connecting nearby subway lines and PATH commuter trains to New Jersey, so travelers don’t have to go outside to transfer.

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