Well, this wasn't a surprise: An Upper East Side community board committee moved to reject plans for a 30 floor apartment tower at 980 Madison Avenue. The design by Lord Norman Foster, ballyhooed for his addition to the Hearst Building and a design for the World Trade Center, is shorter than the Carlyle Hotel nearby, but the Carlyle's height is less obtrusive due to set backs.

Just last week, the NY Times' architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff hailed the design, calling it "the most handsome building to rise along Madison Avenue since the Whitney Museum of American Art was completed 40 years ago," while acknowledging it would be a tough sell to the neighborhood. Gothamist had wondered if Ouroussoff's words were meant as a way to convince more design-forward residents, but some were upset. Really upset. The NY Times has the negative reaction:

“A glass dagger plunged into the heart of the Upper East Side,” said Dan Goldberg, a resident of East 76th Street. “Midtown is filled with lots of prima donna-ish buildings, so maybe it makes less of a difference there, but up here, our prevailing skyline is more consistent, and Foster’s aggressively futuristic vision of 980 Madison would kill that consistency."

“What makes Paris beautiful?” asked Don Gringer, a Park Avenue resident. “Low-rise buildings, limestone, ornaments — all similar and somewhat matching but working together. Help us keep our Madison Avenue as beautiful and in character.”

Yeah, Madison Avenue should be like Petite Paris! Put more dog poop on the sidewalks, change the street system to arrondisements! But it brings up an interesting debate about what a historic district is supposed to be - Paul Byard of Columbia's historic preservation program tells the NY Sun that "the Landmarks Commission is increasingly faced with pressure from some preservationist groups to only approve designs identical to a neighborhood's existing character."

But some people did like the design; Barry Schneider, president of the East Sixties Neighborhood Association, told the Times it was "an architectural tour du force." The NY Sun reports on what the building's developer Aby Rosen thought:

"The Upper East Side needs new progressive architecture. Historically, the people who lived there were a driving creative force behind New York City. Unfortunately, now the Upper East Side has lost a little bit of its progressive luster to downtown."

Uh, we think UES residents are happy to lose the progressive luster if they get to keep their views. The committee voted to reject the design, 6-to-3; the full board will vote on the matter next. After that, city groups will take part in deciding whether the tower is a go.