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Could 15 Penn Plaza Be Successful Somewhere Else?

The Beekman, blocking a Brooklyn view of the Woolworth Bulding.
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The Beekman, blocking a Brooklyn view of the Woolworth Bulding. Flickr user Amazin' Jane

As we mentioned before, a good 76% of New Yorkers apparently think building a 1,200 foot tower two blocks away from the Empire State Building would be detrimental to the New York City skyline. But as The Empire State Building Company's Times ad said, "There will be taller buildings in New York City...but they should merit the height with excellence." We took a look back at some recent New York history to one building that seems to be doing just that. The year was 2009, and Frank Ghery's 76-story Beekman Tower was causing quite a stir.

Developer Bruce Ratner almost had to stop the building at 38 stories due to the economy, but got the project back to its full height after negotiating with labor unions to save costs. And though the 867-foot tower is is changing the city's view of the iconic Woolworth Building (the city's tallest building from its construction in 1913 until 1930), it has not seen nearly as much criticism as 15 Penn Plaza has in just the past few days.

The NY Times' architecture review suggested why that may be the case, "A lesser architect might have spoiled one of the most fabled views in the Manhattan skyline. Instead Mr. Gehry has designed a landmark that will hold its own against the greatest skyscrapers of New York. It may even surpass them." Also near the Woolworth Building, developer Larry Silverstein announced he will be building an 80-story Four Seasons hotel at 99 Church Street, which Alliance of Downtown New York president Elizabeth Berger called one of the "reasons why Lower Manhattan is a global model for urban centers of the 21st century."

Developer Elie Hirschfeld, who sold The Hotel Pennsylvania to Vornado, is on the side of those who want to see that kind of support uptown. He said in a statement, "It brings me great sadness to see something that I have nurtured as well as a beloved New York City landmark go, but Vornado’s project will be a magnificent monument that will bring the city into the new millennium in such a way that only a great visionary like [Vornado Chairman of the Board] Steve Roth can." Which may be true, but perhaps it would be more beloved if it were further away from the hallowed ground of the Empire State Building.

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