You’ve been warned. It’s long been public knowledge that the gargantuan Park Avenue tower visible from neighboring states heralds a new crop of super-tall neighbors; that the Empire State Building’s primacy over midtown is a thing of the past; and that the Nordstrom Tower on 57th Street will reach as high, if not higher, than One World Trade. But the chances are that none of that really registered, or only as an abstraction. It’s hard to see a skyscraper that doesn’t exist.
Now the blog New York YIMBY has found and released vivid renderings of that Nordstrom Tower, whose parapet could reach 1,530 feet — 15 stories higher than the World Trade Center — and its pinnacle 1,795 feet. Those numbers could still shift a little, and the design will be refined, but the latest pictures make it clear what a behemoth looks like from the ground, specifically, from Sheep Meadow.
Central Park is fulfilling its original mission, which was, in part, to boost real-estate prices around its edge. But buildings that benefit from that scenic subsidy should not turn around and spoil it for everyone else. I have no beef with raising the skyline of midtown, but super-tall skyscrapers don’t necessarily belong where developers choose to put them. One or two 57th Street towers casting slender, moving shadows over Central Park do little harm. A whole forest of them eventually turns the park into a clearing where sunrise comes late and sunset early.
The law doesn’t just allow these towers; it actively encourages them. In areas without height restrictions, developers who buy up enough air rights can build “as of right,” without any form of public review. It’s too late to prevent the skyscrapers we know about. Get used to the idea of looking up from your Frisbee game or your picnic to see an audience of glassy giants. But the parade doesn’t end there. As the Municipal Art Society has pointed out, the city can still change the rules and prevent future developers from eating those portions of sky that matter most.