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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The Land Use Committee of the City Council voted 19 to 1 to approve a plan by Vornado Realty Trust to erect a very tall office tower 900 feet west of the Empire State Building, whose owner had argued it would "ruin views of his iconic tower, and thus the city as a whole," according to an article today by Matt Chaban at archpaper.com.

"In fact, the issue of the skyline barely even came up, and when it did, the council members...essentially said New York must build to remain great," the article continued.

"When Vornado showed up at Monday's hearings without a specific plan for how it would ensure a portion of the contractors on the project would be MWBEs [women- and minority-owned business enterprises," the article noted, "the committee members were displeased. Councilwoman Letitia James asked if the company even had any sort of minority hiring practices, to which the head of the New York Office, David Greenbaum, joked that he was not sure but had had a party recently at which there were many women, and his wife asked which were employees and which were spouses and he said, with a chuckle, that it was more of the former. James was not amused."

"Vornado proffered a last minute MWBE plan before today's vote," the article said, "calling for at least 15 percent of all construction work to be done by MWBEs. Whether the project would have been torpedoed without it is hard to say, but it did little to assuage council members complaints at the same time they overwhelmingly voted for the project. James Saunders, one of the council's lions on MWBE issues, made his frustration known. 'This is a tepid response to a need, a very tepid response,' he said of the new MWBE plan. 'We can't go on like this. That we even have to have this discussion shows that there needs to be some real dialogue here.'"

Yesterday Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg came out strongly in favor of the Vornado scheme: "I don't understand that. You know, 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. This is something that's great for this city. Competition's a wonderful thing. 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, nor should it be."

The planned tower, which is known as 15 Penn Plaza, would rise on the site of the Hotel Pennsylvania, which was designed by McKim Mead & White to be compatible with the firm's great Penn Station train terminal that was demolished in the 1960s. The hotel occupies most of the western part of the block bounded by Seventh Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas and 32nd and 33rd Streets.

The planned new tower has been designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, which designed the Beacon Tower for Vornado.

Vornado, which has many properties in and around the train station, was seeking several zoning variances that would enable it to build almost double what the current zoning would allow for the site.

Later today, the full City Council voted to approve the Vornado plan 47 to 1.

Anthony Malkin, an owner of the Empire State Building, campaigned against the granting of the wavers, declaring the proposed building a "monstrosity" and noting that recently the City Planning Commission had ordered 200 feet "chopped" off the top of a proposed new tower designed by Jean Nouvel adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art because it infringed on the iconic skyline solitude of the Empire State Building and it is almost a mile further away from it than 15 Penn Plaza.

In exchange for the gigantic increase in zoning for its site, Vornado plans to reopen the "Gimbel's passageway" and install subway entrances in the planned building, at an estimated cost of $100 million.

Additional Info About the Building

 
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
Luxury Homes in Midtown | Newly Renovated Studio-2BR Homes View Property
Spacious 1 Bedrooms with outdoor space and in-residence w/d View Property
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