Battle over Midtown's Skyline

New York City’s Empire State Building has dominated its portion of Manhattan’s skyline ever since it was constructed back in 1931. Now, as Charles V. Bagli reported for the New York Times, a proposed tower just two avenues west on 34th Street across from Pennsylvania Station will be infringing on the Empire State Building as it is slated to rise 1,216 ft – almost reaching the Empire State Building’s 1,250 ft (with its antenna, the ESB measures 1,453 ft). So, it has become the battle of the skyscrapers as the new building claims it will benefit Manhattan by providing jobs and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers and the Empire State Building is worried about losing its iconic presence in the skyline.

The building in question is Vornado Realty Trust’s 15 Penn Plaza designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, which the City Planning Commission has already approved.  The tower, which will replace the existing Hotel Pennsylvania, would be 56 percent larger than what would ordinarily be allowed to promote Manhattan’s high-density development.  However, Community Board 5, whose district includes the area, does not approve stating that the developer had not provided a rationale for such a large zoning bonus, especially since it did not have a tenant and might not build for years, explained the Times.

Interestingly enough, both sides have produced renderings to support their views.  While Vornado prefers the northern view which shows the towers occupying their own space in the skyline, the view of Midtown from New Jersey shows a different story as Penn Plaza completely blocks the Empire State Building.

Opinions vary strongly over this new building as some ask whether New York’s skyline of earlier years should remain unchanged, or whether we should forge ahead with new structures that could better the city.  Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick told the Times, “The question here is: How close is too close to one of New York’s iconic landmarks.”

David R. Greenbaum, president of the New York office division of Vornado Realty Trust, remarked to the Times,“The fact is that New York’s skyline has never stopped changing, and one hopes it never will,” whereas Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Properties wants Penn Plaza to be reduced to 825 ft claiming, “It’s all about the iconography of the New York skyline and whether it matters to people or not.”

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Cite: Karen Cilento. "Battle over Midtown's Skyline" 25 Aug 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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