Competition for Empire State Building on NYC skyline

A developer has proposed a new skyscraper near the Empire State Building (ESB) in New York City and the ESB’s owner is arguing against it:

The tower would spoil the famous view of the 102-story skyscraper for millions of tourists, the Empire State Building’s owner, Anthony Malkin, testified Monday at a City Council hearing. It “defines New York,” he said.

“We view this as an assault on New York City and its iconography,” said Malkin, whose grandfather founded the Malkin Holdings company. It’s “the end of the image of New York City that billions of people hold dear.”

The City Council is to vote this week on whether to allow a developer to erect a 67-story tower that’s only 34 feet lower than the 79-year-old Empire State Building, the city’s tallest skyscraper.

The proposed tower’s developer, David Greenbaum, says 15 Penn Plaza would provide critically needed and state-of-the-art office space to midtown Manhattan, creating at least 7,000 new jobs.

“The fact is, New York City’s skyline has never stopped changing, and I certainly hope it never will,” testified Greenbaum, president of Vornado Realty Trust’s New York chapter.

This is an interesting example of many development battles: someone wants to make money with a new building and someone else wants to preserve what the neighborhood (and perhaps wants to protect their own investment).

I have a hard time buying the argument that the building shouldn’t be built because it is “an assault on New York City.” As the developer notes, skylines change pretty frequently. There could be other arguments to make against the building but preserving the skyline doesn’t sound reasonable. In fact, the changing of the skyline is often part of what makes cities interesting; they are consistently changing.