An Affair To Remember

Vornado Tower

The Battle for the New York Skyline

New York City is losing the Empire State Building. Not really, but it will be hard to tell the difference thanks to Wednesday’s City Council vote to approve the new 1200-ft. tall Vornado Tower. This McMansion-style high-rise will stand two blocks away, block all views west from the 86th floor Observation Deck, and render the Empire State Building invisible to most west side residents. The deep and passionate public objection to the project is not rooted in NIMBY-ism or an attempt to encase the skyline in amber — 9/11 showed us the futility of that.

The Twin Towers might have fallen but the Empire State Building shone throughout those dark days as a beacon of hope

But 9/11 also showed us the power of iconic buildings. The Twin Towers might have fallen but the Empire State Building shone throughout those dark days as a beacon of hope, and as we approach the 9th anniversary of the attacks, this development serves as sorry reward for the venerable old spire. While NY needs jobs and better public transportation hubs, we don’t want to purchase them at the price of our skyline or as punishment for owner Andrew
Malkin for failing to light the building in honor of Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday (cited by Councilman Peter Vallone as added incentive to approve the Vornado Tower). Even more troubling, Vornado realty as yet has no anchor tenant lined up to fill it. In other words – it’s being built on spec. We’ve seen the perils of overbuilding in this country. As for the obstruction of views of the Empire State Building, Mayor Bloomberg says “get over it”; an echo of his sentiments facing objections to the dead-and-buried West Side Stadium. Paging Robert Moses. The project need not be entirely scrapped. There is ample precedent for required downsizing and aesthetic changes. The much more attractive and far less imposing Jean de Nouvel-designed MoMA tower was scaled back in 2008 over concerns that it might obscure the Chrysler Building. Why should the Empire State Building receive any less consideration?


Noel Eisenberg is a guest editorial journalist for Global Whisperer.

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