Posts Tagged ‘15 Penn Plaza’

Skyline Envy

September 27th, 2010 by Jonathan Vit

From a proposed sale by a major stakeholder to the discovery of a squatter on the 40th floor, the Empire State Building has been grabbing headlines of late, but it’s another building, a proposed 1,200 foot tower down the street, that may have the biggest impact on what is arguably New York’s most iconic building.

City Council approved the construction 15 Penn Plaza in late August, paving the way for new skyscraper that, detractors say, will only mar the city’s skyline by drawing attention away from the Empire State Building. The 1,216-foot building, planned for a site two avenues west of the Empire State Building, would rise to nearly the same height as the Empire State Building and would make the iconic building nearly invisible from New Jersey.

But one has to ask, what’s in a skyline anyway?

Urban planners spend their lives designing aesthetically pleasing city skylines and New York City’s is one of the most recognizable in the world. (In fact, the Big Apple’s crowded skyline has been ranked fourth in the world, behind Hong Kong, Chicago and Shanghai).

But a skyline is a malleable thing,  and New York’s has been in constant flux since the early 1900s. When the Empire State Building opened its doors in 1931, the city had 13 buildings taller than 656 feet. By August of 2008, Manhattan had 50 buildings. Need further proof? Just look at this photo illustrating the city’s ever-evolving skyline.

David R. Greenbaum, of the Vornado Realty Trust, the developers behind the 68-story 15 Penn Plaza, echoed this sentiment in the New York Times.

“The fact is that New York’s skyline has never stopped changing, and one hopes it never will,” said David R. Greenbaum, president of the New York office division of Vornado Realty Trust.

There’s no doubt that a city’s skyline is an important part of its shared identity. Just ask the residents of Phoenix, Ariz., who are struggling with that very issue right now. And this isn’t the first time new construction has incited the ire of critics. The construction of the 52-story 712 Fifth Ave. has blocked views of the Empire State Building since it was constructed in 1990.

The simple fact is the New York skyline is going to change, whether New Yorkers like it or not. And one has to ask, with the amount of anger rearing its head in recent months, are New Yorkers just looking for a fight?