City Council Approves New Tower Near Empire State Building

By Pei-Sze Cheng
|  Thursday, Aug 26, 2010  |  Updated 7:57 AM EDT
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A sky high showdown looms in Midtown. That's where plans to build a new office tower are running into opposition from the owners of the <a title=Empire State Building. And just as the city council prepares to vote on the plan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighs in." />

A sky high showdown looms in Midtown. That's where plans to build a new office tower are running into opposition from the owners of the Empire State Building. And just as the city council prepares to vote on the plan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighs in.

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The full City Council  voted to approve to build a new skyscraper that will stand taller than the Empire State Building -- currently the highest tower in New York City.

The vote passed 47 to 1. Earlier today, both the Zoning and Franchising subcommittee and Land Use committee voted in favor of allowing construction of the 15 Penn Plaza project.

The Empire State Building's owner opposes the project. Anthony Malkin says the proposed 1,200-foot glass office tower will ruin the view from the renowned landmark and negatively alter the skyline.

"We are not monument alley we are not a place that is frozen in one moment in time," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn.  "New York City has never been a place that stays stagnant -- we want the next Rockefeller Center, we want the next Chrysler Building."

Vornado Reality Trust, which is behind the 15 Penn Plaza project, put out a statement after the vote thanking officials.

"We wish to acknowledge the efforts of the City Council, the City Planning Commission, the Borough President and all those connected with the approval of our project, which we believe will be an outstanding addition to New York's iconic skyline," the Vornado statement read.

Councilman Charles Barron, (D-East New York) was the one councilmember to vote no on the project. He said there should have been a greater commitment to minority workers included in the proposal.

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the project, mocked Malkin, saying every building alters the city's skyline and no developer owes anyone an apology for new buildings. He welcomes the proposed Manhattan tower as a great investment and emphasized the importance of competition as an economic development tool.

"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," Bloomberg said. "We don't have to run around to every owner and apologize. Competition's a wonderful thing."

Developer David Greenbaum's plan for the 67-story Vornado tower a couple of blocks west of the 102-story Empire State Building would be 34 feet shorter than the Empire State Building.

Greenbaum says his tower would provide critically needed office space. It may also serve as a new transit hub near Penn Station.

Empire State Building owner Anthony Malkin says it would be an "assault on New York City.'' He said it would mean "the end of the image of New York City that billions of people hold dear."

The building would stand two blocks west of the Empire State Building on the site of the current Hotel Pennsylvania on Seventh Avenue, steps from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.

"Wow! Wouldn't that be sad!" said Christa Huggins, a 35-year-old from Utah visiting the Empire State Building's 102nd-floor observatory.

Huggins said she "loves the view of New York all the way around, but especially in that direction. And this would block it."

Renderings of the proposed building — designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects — portray a skyscraper shaped like a giant chisel atop a block. It tapers to a flat edge at the peak and is marked by a top-to-bottom groove on its face.

The project is expected to create 7000 jobs and will include $150 million in transportation infrastructure improvements.

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