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Norman Foster has become the darling of New York.

His recently completed Hearst Building on Eighth Avenue was welcomed with almost unanimous approval, while his Ground Zero proposals met with appreciative nods.

Even his plans to build a 62-storey tower behind Mies van der Rohe's untouchable Seagram Building did not provoke the storm of protest which usually follows such a potentially 'threatening' scheme.

However, if the initial response to his new 980 Madison Avenue skyscraper scheme is anything to go by, Foster has a bit of a fight on his hands this time.

The 25-storey development on the Upper East Side is actually the practice's shortest skyscraper project in New York to date.

But whereas the other schemes have sidestepped any real controversy, Foster's proposal to build a residential tower above the former ParkeBernet Gallery has not gone down well with residents.

It was the same super-rich locals who fought a vigorous and well-organised campaign to try and stop Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum extension just two blocks away.

At a recent public meeting, one outraged Upper East Sider described the scheme as a 'glass dagger plunged into the heart [of the area]'. Another told the New York Times the building was like 'an uninvited intruder'.

A local community board committee, which will be consulted by both the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) - the US equivalent of English Heritage - and the city's planners, has already rejected the proposals this week.

And, although developer Aby Rosen, the same client behind Foster's Seagram scheme, has promised the development would lead to the restoration of the original building and increase exhibition space, conservation organisations aren't happy.

The Historic District Council (HDC) has released a call to arms to in a bid to block the scheme. A spokesman said:

'Regardless of its architectural merit [we] feel strongly that the tower is entirely inappropriate to the protected character of the. . .Historic District.'

Yet project architect Brandon Haw is unconcerned by the criticism.

He believes the scheme will not only bring the existing 1947 late-Modern building on the site back to its former glory but, with its new roof terrace and gallery space, it will also help re-energise the art scene in the area.

Haw says he also understands the strong reaction against the tower which has emerged.

He said: 'At the recent meeting everybody was saying how wonderful the building is - but they just don't want it here.

'The question is how you stop an area from becoming atrophied and stop an area from dying if nobody can build anything exciting.

'New York is always changing - it is not a city cast in aspic.'

The next big obstacle for the scheme is clearing the hurdle of the LPC meeting on 24 October.

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