A three-year battle to protect the pristine Palisades cliffs from the development of a towering headquarters for LG Electronics USA in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, has at last been resolved, in favor of conservation groups. LG has agreed to revise its initial HOK-designed proposal and reduce the building's height by a little more than half, from 143 feet to 69 feet, thus preserving the unspoiled vistas of the historic park from both sides of the Hudson River. Maybe it was LG chairman Bon-Moo Koo's passion for bird-watching and bird safety that helped sway the South Korean company to rethink its plan, as reported by the New York Times, or perhaps it was the immense support from environmental groups, four former governors, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and four former US ambassadors to South Korea that finally clinched the deal? Either way, it's a watershed moment for the coalition partners—including Scenic Hudson, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference—who feared that if this building were erected, it would be the first of many to soar above the tree-line north of the George Washington Bridge. The New York Times pointed out that the redesigned headquarters would still be twice the height of its neighboring buildings. Even so, former critics are pleased with LG's new plans, which will likely bring the top floor or roof flush with the treetops. HOK has reworked the design, expanding the length of the building to include a 5-story north wing and a 3-story south wing. The firm is seeking LEED Platinum certification for the complex, and has also pledged to employ special lighting to safeguard migratory birds and other design features to "reduce the visual impact while retaining the scale of the complex as home for LG’s growing US business," said HOK in a statement. “The new design integrates LG’s aspirations to build a world-class, sustainable headquarters in a park-like setting below the tree line of the historic Palisades,” said Ken Drucker, design principal at HOK’s New York office. “The viewshed from the Hudson River and New York will not be impacted and the surrounding area of the 27-acre site will be reforested.” While this first battle has been won, the NRDC will now focus its efforts now on state legislation "to limit development in towns along the New Jersey portion of the Hudson River Palisades to low-rise buildings," explained Mark Izeman, director and senior attorney at NRDC, in a post on the organization's website. "If enacted, this bill would put in more permanent protection for the Palisades and help prevent the type of local zoning battle that took place in Englewood Cliff," said Izeman.
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The World Monuments Fund has announced its 2014 Watch List for cultural sites at risk by changes in economy, society, and politics within their respective countries and disrepair due to natural forces. For 2014, the Monument Watch List, compiled and released every two years since 1996, has cited 67 heritage risks in 41 countries and territories around the world. These sites range from Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1911-built Taliesin home in Wisconsin, submissive to elements of weathering, to the tree-lined Palisades cliffs in New York and New Jersey, jeopardized by corporate construction plans, to all of the cultural sites of Syria, risked by current war conflict. Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin The World Monuments Fund explains:
The low-lying structures of Taliesin seem in harmony with the rugged landscape, neither feature imposing upon the other. But the forces of nature, including exposure to the elements over time, have put the complex at risk. Taliesin was included on the 2010 Watch to draw attention to these issues, and now the Hillside Theater, the most public of the spaces at Taliesin, is suffering from water infiltration, perimeter drainage issues, a failing roof, and other problems with the building envelope. Due to the experimental nature of the design and materials used to construct Taliesin, the structures face special conservation challenges requiring extensive research and innovative solutions.Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria The World Monuments Fund explains:
Escalating violence in Syria since 2011 has had devastating effects on the country’s cultural heritage. From the ancient souk, or marketplace, in Aleppo, to the iconic Crac des Chevaliers—two castles that were built between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries as regional fortifications during the Crusades—to Qal’at al-Mudiq, an archaeological tell that forms part of the classical city of Apamea, the destruction of Syria’s most significant and symbolic sites is of urgent and primary concern, with irreversible implications for the country’s architectural legacy.The Cloisters and the Palisades, New York and New Jersey The World Monuments Fund explains:
The Cloisters Museum itself houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of European medieval art and incorporates monastic architectural elements in its design including stone and stained-glass panels for the doors, and windows. Since its opening in 1938, a defining feature of visiting the Cloisters is an extraordinary vista across the Hudson River to the Palisades. Plans are underway to construct a corporate headquarters and a residential complex on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, modifying zoning legislation to accommodate towers that rise above the once protected tree line of the Palisades. ... An appeal is underway, and it is hoped that inclusion on the Watch will raise awareness about the loss to future generations posed by this development and others that may follow.East Japan Earthquake Heritage Sites After a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and related tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011, the World Monuments Fund set the heritage sites of the coastal regions of Tohoku and Kanto on its 2012 Watch List. Since then, the WMF collaborated with the Foundation for Cultural Heritage and Art Research to save over 700 national monuments affected by the disaster. Several historic architectural structures were damaged or destroyed by the power of the quake. Although progress has been made, the landmarks which are important to the tourism of the region, are still at risk, in need of grants for continued restoration. Güell Pavilions and Garden, Barcelona, Spain The World Monuments Fund explains:
After Güell's death the estate was converted into a palace for the Spanish Royal Family. The site was later acquired by the University of Barcelona during its expansion into this area in the 1950s, and it now forms part of the Avinguda Diagonal campus of the university. Public access to the garden has been limited, but a new master plan prepared by the university and the city's Municipal Institute of Urban Landscape and Quality of Life provides for improved access to the site by visitors and expanded use for university events. Repairs to the structures are necessary, and a project to rehabilitate the roof of the stable is already underway with funding from the Spanish Ministry of Education. More resources are needed to implement this well-conceived plan for the benefit of all citizens of Barcelona, and the millions who visit this enchanting city every year.Elevators of Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile The World Monuments Fund explains:
The Elevators of Valparaíso have been included on the 2014 Watch to emphasize the continuing need for the restoration of the city’s most picturesque feature and an important vehicle for social interaction. The elevators have served as the main method of transportation along the city’s steep topography and were fundamental to its urban development. They symbolize Valparaíso’s preeminence as a maritime center, a position it lost after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Of the 31 original elevators, only 15 remain, of which just 7 are operational. The loss of these vital transit arteries has had negative impacts on the city. A plan unifying community, municipal, and private entities in a collective effort to protect and maintain the elevators is needed to ensure their long-term survival and the revitalization of important neighborhoods in Valparaíso.Cultural Heritage Sites of Mali Since armed conflicts began in Mali in 2012, the country’s heritage sites have been endangered and have suffered some damage. According to the WMF, “nine of the sixteen mausoleums within the World Heritage Site boundaries of Timbuktu were destroyed by rebel forces.” And now, troops are advancing to encroach on the Bandiagara Escarpment in Dogon country and the natural material architectural structures there. Christ Church at Zanzibar, Tanzania The World Monuments Fund explains:
Stone Town has a number of important sites that together have created a vibrant tourist industry, but sectarian conflict, lack of financial resources, and political issues pose ongoing challenges to implementing restoration projects on many of its sites. Nevertheless, plans are under development for formal training and capacity-building programs at Christ Church Cathedral, and there are strong networks in place for local stewardship of the site. Christ Church Cathedral and the Former Slave Market Site is included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch to promote its conservation and its role in a broader revitalization strategy for Stone Town; one that will be compelling to the international community but will also support Zanzibari citizens and their local economy.Battersea Power Station, London, United Kingdom The World Monuments Fund explains:
Since 1983, Battersea Power Station has been closed to the public, marking a thirty-year period of abandonment and lack of appropriate maintenance. The station was first listed on the Watch in 2004, and its impending demolition was averted. Ten years later, the Power Station’s future is once again in question. Located on prime London real estate, the site is slated for imminent redevelopment. There is concern that current plans do not adequately protect the iconic chimneys and the important viewsheds of the power station’s silhouette. The local community is engaged and vested in the future of their swathe of London, and the international community recognizes the cultural significance of this twentieth-century icon. Inclusion on the Watch seeks to reinvigorate and contribute to conversations regarding the long-term stewardship of Battersea Power Station.The complete list by country is as follows: Argentina · Church and Monastery of St. Catherine of Siena, Buenos Aires Armenia · Bardzrakash St. Gregory Monastery, Dsegh, Lori Province Belgium · Collegiale Sainte-Croix de Liege, Liege Brazil · Serra da Moeda, Minas Gerais Chile · Elevators of Alparaíso, Valparaíso · Palacio La Alhambra, Santiago China · Pokfulam Village, Hong Kong Colombia · Ancient Ridged Fields of the San Jorge River Floodplain, Córdoba and Sucre Departments Comoros · Funi Aziri Bangwe, Ikoni, Grande Comore Ecuador · Remigio Crespo Toral Museum, Cuenca, Azuay Province Egypt · Bayt-Al-Razzaz, Cairo Ethiopia · Yemrehanna Kristos, Amhara Region France · Churches of Saint-Merri and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Paris Germany · Gaslight and Gas Lamps of Berlin, Berlin Guatemala · Uaxactun, Petén Department Guyana · Georgetown City Hall, Georgetown India · Historic City of Bidar, Karnataka · House of Shaikh Salim Chishti, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh · Juna Mahal, Dungarpur, Rajasthan Indonesia · Ngada Villages of Flores, Flores, Nusa Tenggara · Peceren and Dokan, Karo District, North Sumatra · Trowulan, Mojokerto, East Java Iraq · Khinnis Reliefs, Kurdistan Region Italy · Farnese Aviaries, Rome · Historic Center of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Abruzzo · Muro Dei Francesi, Ciampino, Province of Rome, Lazio · Venice, Venice, Veneto Japan · East Japan Earthquake Heritage Sites, Tohoku and Kanto Regions · Sanro-Den of Sukunahikona Shrine, Ozu, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Jordan · Damiya Dolmen Field, Damiya, Jordan Valley Kenya · Lamu Old Town, Lamu Macedonia · Monastery of Poloshko, Kavadarci Municipality Mali · Cultural Heritage Sites of Mali Mexico · Fundidora Park, Monterrey, Nuevo León · Retablos de los Altos de Chiapas, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Teopisca, Chiapas Mozambique · Island of Mozambique, Napula Province Myanbar · Yangon Historic City Center, Yangon Nigeria · Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, Osogbo, Osun State Pakistan · Shikarpoor Historic City Center, Shikarpoor Municipality Palestinian Territory · Ancient Irrigated Terraces of Battir, Bethlehem Governorate, West Bank Peru · Capilla de la Virgen Concebida de Kuchuhuasi, Quispicanchi, Cusco · Cerro Sechín, Casma, Ancash · Chan Chan, Trujilli, La Libertad · Gran Pajatén, Mariscal Céceres, San Martín Portugal · Fort of Graça, Elvas, Alentjo · Joanine Library of the University of Coimbra, Coimbra Romania · Great Synagogue of Iasi, Iasi · Wooden Churches of Northern Oltenia and Southern Transylvania, Northern Oltenia and Southern Transylvania Singapore · Bukit Brown Spain · Güell Pavilions and Garden, Barcelona · Iglesia Parroquial San Pedro Apóstol, Buenache de Alarcón, Cuenca Syria · Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria Tanzania · Christ Church Cathedral, Zanzibar, Stone Town, Zanzibar · Dar es Salaam Historic Center, Dar es Salaam · House of Wonders and Palace Museum, Stone Town, Zanzibar Turkey · Cathedral of Mren, Digor, Kars United Kingdom · Battersea Power Station, London · Deptform Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden, London · Grimsby Ice Factory and Kasbah, Grimsby, Lincolnshire · Sulgrave Manor, Sulgrave, Northamptonshire United States · Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas · George Najashima House, Studio, and Workshop, Bucks County, Pennsylvania · Henry Klumb House, San Juan, Puerto Rico · Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri · Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin · The Cloisters and Palisades, New York and New Jersey Venezuela · Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, Caracas
Four residents of New Jersey and two public interest groups have pledged to appeal the court ruling upholding the grant of a variance to allow LG Electronics USA to build an 8-story headquarters in Englewood, NJ. If built, the HOK-designed office complex (pictured) will rise above the tree-line and forever change the view of the Palisades from the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's outpost in northern Manhattan, that sits along the Hudson River facing New Jersey. “We have reviewed the decision and believe that it is erroneous. We plan to appeal,” said Angelo Morresi, attorney for the public interests groups, in a statement. (Rendering: Courtesy HOK)
The battle over LG Electronic's proposed office complex in New Jersey is getting increasingly political. Now New York City government officials are chiming in and expressing their opposition to the company's plans to build a 143-foot-high HOK-designed headquarters atop the leafy Palisades along the Hudson River facing Manhattan. Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. sent a letter addressed to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asking him to step in and stop the proposed plans for the office complex and urge a redesign of the building. The letter stated: "For hundreds of years, the residents of your state and ours have enjoyed unspoiled, pristine views of the Palisades, and this proposal threatens to change that forever. The proposal put forward by LG Electronics threatens to alter this view, and negatively impact the enjoyment of the Palisades as a visual and a recreational resource. The Palisades are a natural treasure. The park is a designated National Natural Landmark and development should respect that context. While the Palisades are physically located in New Jersey, they are of such importance to the people and the cultural institutions of New York City that our own development rules have ensured that their view is not obstructed." The letter states that the Bronx Community Board #8 and Manhattan Community Board #12, along with four former New Jersey governors—including Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean, James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman—have all conveyed some level of concern about the new headquarters. To make matters worse for LG, the Environmental Protection Agency has "withdrawn its partnership with LG to develop the tower." This comes after negotiations with a court-supervised mediator failed this Spring.
Conciliatory efforts have failed in the fight over LG Electronic's plans to build 143-foot-high, HOK-designed office complex atop New Jersey's Palisades across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The new headquarters, to be located in Englewood, has been the subject of much debate as several advocacy groups, individuals, and officials from the Metropolitan Museum say that the 8-story building would disrupt the idyllic view of the wooded Palisades from the Cloisters, the MET's outpost in northern Manhattan. Earlier this year, a coalition of groups and individuals—including Scenic Hudson, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs—filed a lawsuit against a variance and zoning in hopes of encouraging a redesign of the building. The two opposing parties agreed to meet with a court-supervised mediator this spring, but according to LG Electronics, these negotiations were unsuccessful. LG claims that the parties had agreed "not to discuss the matter in the media while the process was underway, yet at several points during the sensitive negotiations, groups aligned with the intervenors undertook activities that broke the spirit of the court’s instructions and repeated many inaccurate statements about the project." John Taylor, Vice President of LG Electronics, said that "the players themselves might not have been directly involved," but there was "a stepped up campaign by the opposition during very sensitive negotiations of the mediation and it was not helpful to the process." Now that the parties have failed to come to a resolution, the case will go through court proceedings. "As we said we are confident that we’ll prevail in the courts," said Taylor. "We hope the judge will make a decision later this summer."