That’s My Skyline! Empire State Building Owner Defends His Turf

Makes noise about rival developers New building

Vornado Realty Trust

The Empire State Building may be getting some competition as the dominant figure in the New York skyline.

A new building proposed by rival developer Vornado Realty Trust is just one City Council vote away from beginning construction -- and the would-be 67-story structure makes Anthony Malkin, the owner of the Empire State Building, a little nervous.

Malkin is leading the charge in opposition to the construction project that will be built just blocks from the iconic New York Landmark. 

The building, known as 15 Penn Plaza, will reach a height of about 1,216 feet, which puts it just 34 feet shy of the Empire State Building but not within reach of the legendary spire. An alternate design has the building coming in at 1,190 feet.

The Hotel Pennsylvania will be torn down to make way for the new building. This also puts the tower just steps away from Madison Square Garden.

"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?," said Anthony Malkin in a statement. 

"It's going to be known as the building that has ruined the image of New York City," Malkin, told the Daily News.

Malkin’s opposition is gaining traction as support from Manhattan’s Community Board 5 begins to form. The Community Board is contending that Vornado is seeking a mid-block up-zoning that will add 266,000 square feet to a tower that has no definite timetable, tenancy or financing plan. 

"This up-zoning, just blocks from the Empire State Building, will allow Vornado, or whoever might eventually own this site, to build a building that will change the iconic skyline of New York City forevermore. Such a change must be deeply considered and well thought out, both in terms of its design and, more broadly, its impact on future land use decisions in the immediate area," Wally Rubin told NBCNewYork. 

Roth and Vornado conceded to CB5 that it could be many years before any development scenario might move forward, Rubin noted.     

The Municipal Art Society of New York has joined Malkin’s cause, using the already crowded streets surrounding the proposed building as a point of contention for its construction.

“Now that the project is before the City Council, MAS thinks that it is an appropriate time to discuss the impact 15 Penn Plaza will have on the Empire State Building and on our skyline,” said MAS President Vin Cipolla in testimony made to the city council on June 24th.

“The view sheds and view corridors of certain iconic buildings should be considered in these cases,” noted Cipolla.

The City Planning Commission already approved the plan for rezoning. The only step left in the rezoning process is for the City Council to vote on Monday.

The commission and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer both support the proposed office tower. However, Malkin is hoping to put up enough opposition to force the City Council to urge Roth to scale the tower back.

This wouldn’t be the first time that the City Council will force a developer to lower the height of its building. In Oct. of 2009, the council’s land use and Zoning committees approved a reduced height Museum of Modern Art Tower in Midtown Manhattan.  The committee reduced the tower by 200 feet in that instance.

Vornado Realty Trust refused to comment on the matter.

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