Is the Empire State Building As Special As It Thinks It Is?

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Photo: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects

With the amount of controversy greeting the proposed construction of 15 Penn Plaza, you would think Muslims wanted to pray inside of it. But actually, 15 Penn Plaza is being vigorously opposed by the owners of the Empire State Building because it's so close, and so tall, that it will allegedly ruin New York's skyline, in which the Empire State Building is presently the undisputed centerpiece. The building, which Vornado Realty Trust hopes to get final approval for from the City Council tomorrow, would sit only 900 feet away, and rise nearly as high.

You can see in the renderings above how each side envisions the future of the skyline. In Vornado's, each tower is clearly visible in all its illuminated splendor. Co-existence, hooray! But in the Empire State Building's, it's like 15 Penn Plaza has obliviously and obnoxiously lumbered in front of the Empire State Building while you were taking a photo. "Um, excuse me, sir — sir? — you are right in our way."

Obviously, both are accurate from their respective angles. But the owners of the Empire State Building don't want to be blocked from any angle. "It’s all about the iconography of the New York skyline and whether it matters to people or not," Anthony Malkin said yesterday. In fact, Malkin wants a "17-block no-go zone" protecting the Empire State Building from any similarly giant structures. On the flip side are people, like Vornado's David R. Greenbaum, who insist "New York’s skyline has never stopped changing, and one hopes it never will." The Post in an editorial today also points out that, in this economy, if someone wants to build an enormous office tower, we really shouldn't try to dissuade them.

A Fight on New York’s Skyline [NYT]
New York's living skyline [NYP]