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Empire State owner loses bid to block Pelli Clarke Pelli skyscraper

The Empire State Building’s owner has lost his bid to stop a neighbouring Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects-designed skyscraper being built

New York City Council has approved initial plans for the 363m 15 Penn Plaza tower - although developer Vornado Realty Trust has not set a date for its construction and has yet to sign up a major commercial tenant.

The proposed tower, which would stand higher than the Empire State Building’s 86-floor observatory, infuriated the landmark’s owner, Anthony Malkin, so much that he called it an ‘assault on New York City and its iconography.’

Council members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the project. They said New York City and its world-famous skyline cannot afford to be frozen in time and must embrace new investments.

‘We can’t make decisions based on one building,’ said Councilman Mark Weprin. ‘The city has to grow, and it’s going to continue to grow.’

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also backed the project this week, dismissing Malkin’s argument as delusional.

‘Anybody that builds a building in New York City changes its skyline - we don’t have to run around to every other owner and apologize,’ he said. ‘One guy owns a building, he’d like to have it be the only tall building - I’m sorry, that’s not the real world.’

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.

Malkin had lobbied the council to cut the tower by one-third the proposed height.

He said in a statement after the vote that the owners believed the new building’s height and design encroached on the most iconic image in New York’s skyline. But he conceded that the City Council had the final say.

‘They have gone out of their way to listen to our position,’ he said. ‘In the end … it was up to them to decide.’

A spokesman for the developer released a statement thanking those connected with the approval of the project, which the company believes ‘will be an outstanding addition to New York’s iconic skyline.’


Previous story (24.08.10)

Empire State owner to block rival Pelli Clarke Pelli tower

The owner of the Empire State Building said the height of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ proposed tower near the skyscraper would forever alter the skyline of New York City

Anthony Malkin took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times asking the City Council to reject or amend the current proposal for 15 Penn Plaza.

The full City Council is scheduled to vote on the project on Wednesday.

The 67-storey tower would rise only 10 metres less than the Empire State Building.

Malkin told a council zoning committee that his building is the ‘number one favourite building in the US’.

David Greenbaum is president of the company planning to erect the competitor. He told the committee that 15 Penn Plaza would provide critically needed office space in mid-town Manhattan.

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 - who also owns a stake in Vornado - appealed to subcommittee members to make 15 Penn Plaza no more than 250 metres high, about two-thirds of the originally proposed size. In addition, he asked 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, one of the world’s busiest rail stations; provide better access to subway stations; and ease pedestrian and traffic congestion in the area, which also includes Macy’s flagship department store.

He said he would reopen an underground passage connecting nearby subway lines and PATH commuter trains to New Jersey, so travellers can transfer inside.

The developer has not set a target date for the tower’s construction, saying Vornado needs to wait until it signs a large commercial tenant first.

Malkin said he favours the development of this mid-town Manhattan neighbourhood, but ‘we are concerned about the legacy’ of the Empire State Building.

‘We are the stewards of this great icon,’ he said.

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