Posts tagged with "15 Penn Plaza":

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New York City’s 15 Penn Plaza Catches a Wave

The battle for Midtown Manhattan has taken a new twist.  Radio broadcasters located in the nearby Empire State Building have raised concerns that Vornado Realty Trust's proposed 15 Penn Plaza will swat their signals from the sky. Standing at over 1,200 feet tall, broadcasters worry the Pelli Clark Pelli designed 15 Penn Plaza could reflect or disrupt radio frequencies, causing a phenomenon known as multipath where multiple waves are sent to the same signal. Radio World reports that experts have been watching the proposed tower closely as it was recently given a thumbs up after a contentious approval process in which Empire owner Tony Malkin argued 15 Penn Plaza would diminish from the historic significance of his building. From Radio World:
"Vornado officials have not indicated an interest in building rooftop broadcast facilities atop the new tower, according to observers. "The Empire State Building is home to 19 FM stations and most of the city’s digital television transmitters. Many radio and television broadcasters migrated there after the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (see sidebar). "Multipath issues are nothing new in the city because of its monstrously tall buildings, but the proximity of the skyscraper to the Empire State Building — approximately a quarter-mile — raises a red flag for some in the broadcast community."
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New York, Here is Your New Skyline

UPDATE: Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in whose district the project is located, gave her strong support for it at a press conference before today's meeting of the City Council. More below. The battle for the soul of New York—or at least for its skyline—was over before it even really began. The City Council Land Use Committee just voted in favor of Vornado's roughly 1,200-foot, Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed 15 Penn Plaza, apparently unswayed by complaints from the owner of the Empire State Building, Anthony Malkin, that it would ruin views of his iconic tower, and thus the city as a whole. In fact, the issue of the skyline barely even came up, and when it did, the council members, who voted 19-1 for the tower, essentially said New York must build to remain great. "I think it's a project the city needs," said Councilman Daniel Holleran, a Staten Island Republican. The bigger issue, by far, than the dueling towers was that of who would build 15 Penn Plaza, namely MWBEs. That's the policy shorthand for women- and minority-owned business enterprises. The council, like the city, is majority minority, and so ensuring employment for minorities, particularly in the notoriously cosseted construction industry is often a high priority. 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, the committee members were displeased. Councilwoman Letitia James Albert Vann 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 employs 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, 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." Holleran expressed disappointment that the council does not use its limited leverage over such projects to extract more concessions early on than at the very end, when development projects have essentially reached the stage of fait accompli. Not that it would have mattered if there was any real opposition, as the mayor cast his considerable weight behind the project yesterday, according to the Wall Street Journal [sub. req.].
"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," he said. "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," he added. "I'm sorry that's not the real world, nor should it be."
Malkin was not at today's vote. And perhaps its was with good reason that the council did not take up his position. As our colleague Eliot Brown points out over at the Observer, the skyline fight is not that disimilar to the one over the Ground Zero "Mosque," in that it's a supremely local issue that has been given over to if not irrational than at least emotional pleas for something locals could care less about. After all, we're only ruining the view from Jersey. Yet again, the debate surrounding this project was only nominally about the project at hand. UPDATE: When we asked Speaker Quinn about the merits of such a large, even overbuilt project—it's 42 percent larger than current zoning allows, going from a 12 FAR to an 18 (though mind you the Empire State Building is a whopping 35, so who's dwarfing whom exactly?)—she said she was fine with it. "I think given that this is 34th Street, 33rd Street, and 7th Avenue, one of the most commercial areas in the city of New York, this is an appropriate place for dense development." (The project is actually located between 33rd Street and 32nd Street.) Quinn even went so far as to compare the unbuilt 15 Penn Plaza to many of the city's other iconic office towers, calling it a modern day Rockefeller Center, something the city needs more of. "Our position is about Midtown business district expanding into the 21st Century," Quinn said. "As it is, we're not on par with some of our competitors, say London or Hong Kong. In the middle of this recession, what this say is New York is coming out of this, and coming out on top." Quinn said that she was happy with the MWBE agreement that had been reached with Vornado while also stressing that such matters were not technically under the purvey of the city's land-use review process. When we asked if they should be, Quinn demurred. On a less demure note, Curbed is reporting that the real reason Malkin is so opposed to 15 Penn Plaza is because it's potentially throwing off the feng shui of his tower, killing the "life force" of the Empire State Building and thus a deal with a business from Hong Kong to lease space in the tower. And now we've heard everything.
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Save Our Skyline, Begs Empire State Building

We know hackers and preservationists are staunchly opposed to Vornado's 15 Penn Plaza, because the 1,216-foot Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed tower would replace McKim Mead & White's notable-if-not-renowned Hotel Pennsylvania. Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Holdings, is also not a fan for the simple reason that Malkin Holdings is holding the Empire State Building. And its views would most likely be compromised by 15 Penn Plaza. Malkin is now speaking out against the project, under the aegis of a group calling itself Friends of the New York City Skyline, a posse which also includes MAS, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Landmarks Conservancy. It may be too little, too late. Amanda Burden and the City Planning Commission already gave their approval in July, calling it "precisely the type of well-designed…office building that New York City needs to stay globally competitive." Still, hoping to head off a vote on Monday at the City Council, Malkin and his Friends have sent around mawkish renderings and a statement (below) about everything that's wrong with this building and how it could ruin the city. Currently 15 Penn Plaza is 42 percent bigger than current zoning allows, with no setbacks, but at the same time, as garish as it looks in these renderings, it also shows the dynamic way in which our iconic skyline is always changing. Just think of the thrill you get looking back at old pictures of the city and comparing them to today. Even monstrosities like the Trump Wold Tower across from the U.N. look half-decent in this context. To build is to survive as a city and it's good to know that, for better or worse, there are no sacred cows. After all, these were some of the same groups who complained when Burden cut Nouvel's MoMA Tower down to size. Significantly, the tower is in Council Speaker Christine Quinn's district, and she is an avowed friend to developers: Tenant or no tenant, building is in the cards. Malkin's statement:
"The Empire State Building is the internationally recognized icon on the skyline of New York City. We are its custodians, and must protect its place. Would a tower be allowed next to the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben’s clock tower? Just as the world will never tolerate a drilling rig next to The Statue of Liberty, why should governmental bonuses and waivers be granted to allow a structure as tall and bulky at 15 Penn Plaza to be built 900 feet away from New York City’s iconic landmark and beacon? We believe that the public approval process to date for the proposed 15 Penn Plaza has failed to address the interests of New Yorkers. The City Charter did not create the ULURP process so as to provide a speedy approval for a speculative office tower for which there is no planned commencement. The Developer’s Environmental Impact Statement at first ignored, and then (by last minute amendment) gratuitously denied, any impact on the largest landmark in New York City from the proposed 1,200 foot tower to rise at some unspecified future date on the present site of the Hotel Pennsylvania. The people of New York City have already made their sentiments clear: Community Board 5 voted down this proposal 36 to 1, so the only hope for protection of this public legacy now sits with the City Council. There may be buildings taller than the Empire State Building. But no building so close to the Empire State Building should be allowed through discretionary official exceptions to be as bulky and tall as 15 Penn Plaza. The height and bulk of 15 Penn Plaza are the result of waivers and bonuses greatly in excess of code. Another waiver granted 15 Penn Plaza the right to build without setbacks. At only 67 stories, 15 Penn Plaza would be as tall as the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, and would, if built, be as much a scar on the complexion of New York City as the loss of Penn Station. We are working with other New Yorkers and concerned parties who care about this landmark to write and speak to the City Council and its Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on August 23 in opposition to this effort to mar permanently the iconic signature which creates the world's most famous skyline."
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Thumbs Up for Penn Tower

Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave his approval to 15 Penn Plaza, a nearly 1,200-square-foot tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and proposed for a site across from Penn Station. The approval was conditional, as usually happens when a borough president puts the stamp on a land-use project, but what was surprising, perhaps, is that the size or scale of the building were not addressed. As we reported last month, the proposed project is 42.5 percent larger than current zoning allows, one of the chief reasons the local community board opposed the building 36-1, deeming the project too big. Such outsizing is usually a gripe for borough presidents, as well, but that was not the case here, as Stringer took issue with impacts on the open space, transportation, construction, and sidewalks, all of which are impacted by the projects size, though that itself was never an issue. This one, it appears, is all about mitigation and not reduction. That said, this is Midtown—a common refrain in support of the pre-shrunken MoMA tower, to which Stringer did object more strenuously—so maybe this fits after all.