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Obstructed View: New Skyscraper Will Alter New York Skyline

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The so-called Ground Zero mosque is not the only controversial building being planned here in New York City. There is a threat of a new building to rise very close to the Empire State Building at the site of the Hotel Pennsylvania on Seventh Avenue. Named 15 Penn Plaza, the building will be 67 stories and reach a height of 1,216 feet, bringing it close to the height of the Empire State’s top floor. Depending on the vantage point of the person looking at the buildings, 15 Penn Plaza could very well block the view of the Empire State Building or be seen as almost on top of it.

Builder Steven Roth has the support of the City Planning Commission and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, but he is opposed by the owner of the Empire State Building, Anthony Malkin. Also many New Yorkers, including this writer, are against the idea.

Many years ago when I was looking at apartments in Astoria in Queens, New York, the real estate agents were talking about many things: lighting, spaciousness, new cabinets, new appliances, high ceilings, and renovated bathrooms. The one thing, though, that stood out was when they talked about the “unobstructed view,” which meant being able to see Manhattan across the river. All the other things seemed inconsequential if I had that lovely scene to look at every day.

New Yorkers like their “unobstructed views” of the rivers to the east and west, of Central Park, or of the cityscape, most notably the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. We used to also have this love affair with the Twin Towers, and sometimes I catch myself still looking there for what is gone, and then I sadly remember what happened. New buildings will rise there, and we need and want that to happen. Those buildings will alter the skyline and be seen positively by most New Yorkers.

The city had one terrible alteration to its skyline in 2001, and this new addition would just be offensive to the aesthetic sensibilities of most of us. On talk radio here in New York, people are sounding off. Many people cite good examples: would Paris allow a skyscraper to be built next to the Eiffel Tower? Would London allow one next to Big Ben? Would Moscow allow it next to Red Square? Would Hollywood allow one to block the view of the Hollywood Sign? Obviously it would not happen in any of these cases, so why should it happen here?

Malkin is not in this battle all alone. The Municipal Art Society is opposing the construction, and there is a poll on their web site to allow people to vote in favor of or against this new building construction. At the time I am writing this, 68% of the voters are against the building going up so close to the iconic landmark, and as the word spreads I am certain that percentage will get higher.

After 9/11, I think New Yorkers took comfort in the symbols we had left, and the Empire State Building was an old, defiant friend, a beacon that shone at night and glistened during the day. It reminded us then and still that we are New Yorkers, and we can handle anything thrown our way.

There is a serene beauty to the Empire State Building, a grace that seems to have long vanished from elsewhere in our lives. It deserves to stand tall and proud for all New Yorkers, unobstructed by anything, including the shadow of another building that can just as well be built somewhere else in the city.

 

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Ratman

    The skyline changes… Hopefully 15 penn rises…

  • Sony

    for Gods sake its NYC,its alive,vibrant and changes! imagine if we had this same mentality in 1931,then the ESB would have never been built!let the city evolve,dont let it die! rise 15 Penn Plaza,NY’s new landmark!

  • Readman

    Built it already. New York is not some painting in a museum. It’s a city where – surprise – sometimes things get built.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Hey, I do think it should be built, but how about a discreet distance from the ESB as is the case with the Chyrsler Building?

  • Johnson

    Since when is proximity to ESB off limits? Reasons given thus far against it are silly. Vornado will build it.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    No, Johnson, I think the reasons are very sound. Would we build something that would block the Washington Monument from any angle in DC? Would the French build something that would block the Eiffel Tower from any angle? Of course not.

    This is just common sense: you do not block a landmark with a new building.

  • simon

    I’ve been to NYC three times in the past two years and I have to admit that the Empire State Building is my favorite. Now I’m a bit of a skyscraper enthusiast, and when I see a picture of this hulking monstrosity, three words boldly jump out at me:
    “PIECE. OF. SHIT.”

    First of all, the building is quite bland and ultimately featureless. Nothing comparable to the elegance of the ESB.

    Secondly, it could just as easily be built at least several blocks north, or several more blocks south in the Financial district, out of the way of the symbol of the City.

    And thirdly, nobody wants it there. If you happen to be in NYC, ask anyone on the street what they think of this idea.
    See if you’re not surprised.

    This is America. Our home. EVERYone should have a clean, pristine view of NYC’s landmark.
    Some may argue that 15 penn is progress. But it would just show that only in America is progress fueled by greed. Do NOT build 15 penn. Do NOT scar the city anymore than it has been…

    Protect our nation’s icons.

    Preserve the Empire state Building.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Beautifully put, Simon. Thanks!

  • i wish

    There will always be anti progress people and always find a reason why not to build,
    The building will block the view from the ESB, ok. How about, the building will ADD to the view from the ESB.
    Anything anyone wants to build, skyscraper or new stadium those anti progress people will find a reason not to. If we listen to them the whole city will age and nothing will ever be build.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    “New Skyscraper Will Alter New York Skyline”

    Well, yes. So would a mature giant sequoia or a 1200-foot-high sculpture made out of scrapped Hummers.

    Unless my recollections of my own brief time in New York are wrong, there are already plenty of locations in the city from which one cannot see the Empire State Building. It’s not as if Manhattan isn’t already full of skyscrapers; it’s also not as if the ESB is a 9-foot-tall Port-a-Potty.

  • Johnson

    Landmark my a$$,ESB is a relic. Malkin is only concerned about preserving what little demand there is for space at his property and thwarting local competition. Don’t compare ESB to the Washington Monument or the Eiffel Tower; neither one was built as a commercial property, for the purpose of providing office space in a central business district at market rents based on demand, supply, and competition.

  • Johnson

    “The Empire State Building’s owner lost his bid to stop a new skyscraper from rising in the neighborhood when the New York City Council approved zoning and land use changes Wednesday that pave the way for the 1,190-foot tower.”

    “Council members voted overwhelmingly in favor 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.”

    “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.”

    I could not have said it better myself.

  • Achmat

    I think its funny they haven’t built the World Trade Centers(10 Years)yet and they are focusing on building another sky scrapper. I wonder how much $$$ Mayor Bloomberg is making off this building.
    Last I heard WTC was having problems finding tenants yet they want to build another one.. 60% of the high rises are sitting empty.. Let make it 80%!

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    15 Penn Plaza is an eyesore. If it were at least aesthetically pleasing, perhaps it would compliment the ESB as does the Chrysler Building.

    Putting up this monolith so close to the ESB is like blocking an original Matisse with a giant clay sculpture made by a child.

  • Olivia

    Hey Victor I love your opinion! You are so right! I’m sooo going to use this in my CUNY J-School assignment! Thanks!

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thanks, Olivia. Looks like it’s going to happen, so we will all have to accept it. ‘Tis a pity, though.

  • lensjockey™

    “I think the proposed new skyscraper that’s going to rival the Empire State Building looks like the box the Empire State Building came in.” — that was my letter, published today in The New York Daily News — Holly Van Voast

  • Owen

    Ok, it’s a matter of progress, isn’t it? Let’s build a bigger one next to that relic they call Liberty statue.