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08.12.2013
Un-Cloistered View
LG wins key battle to build in the New Jersey Palisades.
HOK's design for LG Electronics USA.
Courtesy HOK and Neoscape

For nearly 75 years, the view from the Cloisters—a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in northern Manhattan—overlooking the verdant cliffs of the Palisades in New Jersey, has remained unmarred by new development. Now the silhouette of LG Electronic USA’s 8-story headquarters will likely extend above the tree line and permanently alter the natural landscape. After a hard-fought legal battle by community members and environmental groups, the court has ruled in favor of LG’s plans to build an 8-story HOK-designed office complex, giving the company the green light to move forward with construction on the 27-acre site.

“Clearly we are disappointed with the results. We view this as one step or one battle in a long and multipronged effort to get LG to lower the height of its headquarters,” said Hayley Carlock, the environmental advocacy attorney for Scenic Hudson. “It can be a win-win situation: LG can still provide as many jobs on that site while still preserving the iconic vistas of the Palisades.”

Critics, public officials, and advocacy groups have been calling on LG to consider a redesign of the 143-foot high building that they say wouldn’t interfere with the historic vista. Officials at LG, however, have stated that their opponents have exaggerated the scale of the building, which is being designed by HOK.

 
Proponent (left) and opponent (right) renderings of how the project would look.
Courtesy HOK & Neoscape / Courtesy Protect the Palisades
 

“It is really hard to understand why the tall building is so important to them,” said Edward Goodell, Executive Director of New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. “They argue that the building just peaks above the tree line when it is more than double the height of the tree-line.”

Two Englewood residents filed a lawsuit in March 2012 contesting the decision by Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board of Adjustments to grant LG a variance change to exceed the 35-foot height limit in the area. Several groups, including Scenic Hudson, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, came to the aid of the litigants this winter to provide legal support and guidance. The two opposing parties had initially attempted to settle this dispute outside of court with the help of a mediator, but negotiations failed after several meetings.

Carlock said that the groups plan on the appealing the decision within the next 45 days. “We have to band together and map out a strategy. We intervened after the trial took place unfortunately. But our whole reason of intervening at this point was to reserve out rights to appeal.”

Meanwhile LG is already prepping for the demolition of the existing structures on the property to jump-start the construction process. "LG is not concerned about threats of the appeal,” said John Taylor, vice president of public affairs at LG. “Municipalities have the authority to determine the best zoning decision. LG did everything correctly during the approval process and we plan to proceed.”

Nicole Anderson