All comments to posts have to await approval. Please be aware that, depending on when I'm logged onto the internet, it may take me hours, even longer, to moderate comments, so if they don't turn up in a speedy fashion, they are still in the queue. Comments that cross a line I'm not comfortable with will not get approved. NOTE: Comments reflect the opinions of the person writing them and should not be assumed to reflect the opinion of the blog.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The Death of NYC's Soul - Dan Garodnick Votes Yes
For true New Yorkers, the sight of the Empire State Building is always transfixing and embracing when it's spotted, as a corner is turned or a view finally provided from a merciful street. These vistas when the Empire State Building is in sight have been decreasing in the last decade plus, with the building of innumerable slivers and high-rises in Manhattan. Now, in this disastrous economy, many of the units in these buildings are waiting for a buyer. So guess what's happened in this atmosphere? New York's politicians have decided to allow the building of another high-rise, a true Gigantor (of glass, of course) that will, when completed, forever change the postcard view of what New York has been for decades by blocking or significantly altering a view of the Empire State Building at certain compass points. This building, with the inspiring name of 15 Penn Plaza, will rise 1,216 feet, and be situated 900 feet away from the Empire State Building. Gone will be Hotel Pennsylvania, on the property owned by Vornado Realty Trust, and up will rise 15 Penn Plaza in its place.
Construction union officials supported the initiative (of course), while people like former parks commissioner Henry Stern stated that the 15 Penn Plaza "could do irreparable harm." Community Board 5, whose domain lies in that area, nixed 15 Penn Plaza. And New Yorkers, polled on the building, also were against it. Zoning regulations were also against the building, its size being 56% beyond what's allowed.
Enter the City Council, which had the final say in the matter, the same Council that voted to overturn the people's will (voted on twice by the people) to mandate two-term limits, when Mayor-for-Life Mike Bloomberg lead them on a leash that served his interests, as well as their own. The Mayor was for 15 Penn Plaza, and so were Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. The Council voted on August 25, 47 to 1 to approve the building and do away with the zoning laws that would prohibit it. Sorry to say, our councilman, Dan Garodnick, was part of this pack.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has to be one of the most despicable of New York's politicians (Lord, I will offer you a sacrifice of 100 goats to make sure that she never becomes Mayor) stated: “I’m thrilled to see the potential of thousands of new jobs being created at this project. This proposal is not removing the beauty of the Empire State Building from our skyline, or even diminishing it.” Bullshit.
And guess who was quoted in Bloomberg News? Our old "friend," Bud Perrone. Yes, Tishman Speyer's spokesperson (former?) is now spokesperson for Vornado Realty Trust!
Speaking for Vornado, Bud Perrone stated that the building "will be an outstanding addition to New York’s iconic skyline. We look forward to working with the council to implement strong minority and women participation in the development and construction of 15 Penn Plaza.” Minority participation was the only item of conflict in the City Council debate, not whether the project would get approval. Approval seemed a done deal, perhaps because of the real estate monies pouring into the coffers of New York City's politicians. But we'll get to that in a moment....
I've no affection for the owners of the Empire State Building--Anthony E. and Peter L. Malkin, who seems like assholes when it comes to what lighting the top of the Empire State Building gets, honoring their Chinese lords and masters for the anniversary of the Chinese Communist state, while denying Mother Teresa a night of blue and white. But this is not about the Malkins, Bloomberg, the City Council, or whomever else. This is about New York--Manhattan in particular, and what makes this city a city and not just an island ripe for continual real estate development. It's about the soul and heart of the city, which is, if you haven't noticed, rapidly disappearing through the machinations of rezoning, mouth-watering greed and the monied interest of real estate firms and the unions who muscle the Democratic Party.
Now, with this vote by the City Council setting such a precedent, there is really no reason to hold back on other similar high rises that could potentially encircle the Empire State Building and block it from any view, forever. In fact, with the vote on extending term limits and the votes on rezoning that go on and on across the city, we see that there is really nothing stopping the Mayor or the City Council from doing anything that they want, the will or the voice of the people be damned. Perhaps, when it's realized that not enough Stuy Town and Peter Copper tenants will fall into the trap of acquiring burdensome second mortgages to pay for their proposed condos, the City Council will vote to eminent domain everyone's ass out of here, tear down the complex, and build super luxury high-rises over this ground, which you just know the real estate folks would love to do. And where will you be, if you can't afford these super luxury rents? In one of the outer boroughs or in Jersey, where, their thinking is, you really belong, you middle-class serfs.
And the idiocy of building such a monster building, right in the middle of one of the busiest thoroughfares in Manhattan is beyond incomprehensible--it's stunning. If you think traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, is bad now along 33-34 St at Seventh Ave, wait till this building is completed and fills up with thousands of workers, if that happens (not a sure thing, in the current economy). Add also more New Yorkers who will be pasty-faced, courtesy the huge shadows cast from 15 Penn Plaza, which will block sunlight from the pavement.
The construction of this building, in this locale, is pure insanity.
A view of 15 Penn Plaza and the Empire State Building from the west.
A view of the Empire State Building and 15 Penn Plaza from the east.
It was dismaying that our councilman, Dan Garodnick, voted yes, and that he, rather pridefully, provided quotes for newspapers validating his vote. But, then again, this is the guy that's so up on the disastrous Second Ave. Subway. Googling Dan, we find he's been in some hot water with preservationists: Garodnick's Marx's Brothers building flap. And check here. And this. And this.
Garodnick appears relatively clean from heavy real estate monies to his campaigns, though he's getting a shitload of money from his old law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison, which just happens to be representing Stuy Town and PCV tenants.
But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is, to put it very plainly, a whore for real estate contributions, including monies from Vornado. Are term limits going to end this bozo's influence in New York politics, or will he, like Bloomberg, stay on forever?
Scott Stringer's campaigns get huge contributions from real estate interests. Is it any wonder where he stands on the building of more and more high-rises in Manhattan?
I don't know yet about the accuracy of the commentary on Speaker Christine Quinn following this interesting post, but if that $91,850 bundled from Daryl Roth is true--well, someone with more pull than poor Stuy Town Reporter should do some serious investigating. Daryl Roth, you see, is the wife of Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steve Roth, the same Vornado Realty Trust that owns the present Hotel Pennsylvania and the future 15 Penn Plaza.
Then there are all the donations from investment/money management firms that these politicians get. Why?
Mayor-for-Life Bloomberg? Bloomberg is a disaster when it comes to being the steward of NY's soul. His offhanded, arrogant response against the Empire State Building shows that he considers the ESB just a building and nothing more: "One guy owns a building, and he'd like to have it be the only tall building. I'm sorry that's not the real world." What true New Yorker thinks this way about the Empire State Building? Most Americans do not think this way about the ESB, considering one of America's great iconic symbols. Is Bloomberg that thick that he can't understand the issue? No, Bloomberg is not a stupid man, but he is soulless man. Which is why the true New York is disappearing under his tutelage.
Part of the "reasoning" behind allowing 15 Penn Plaza is that the building will provide construction jobs. Yes, but where are those construction workers coming from? where are the firms located? how much of a cut will union bosses get?
As Steven Sanders opined in the latest T & V, 15 Penn Plaza will bring "permanent jobs with tens of millions dollars in new tax revenue to the city each year." Well, there just happens to be a glut of office space in Manhattan now and in the foreseeable future, and there are many other areas where a building like this (or, better yet, two buildings half the size) could be built. If the economy does not significantly improve in the next ten years, then this will be another albatross around the neck of the city, much like that 1000 years in the making 2nd Avenue subway that politicians seem so delighted with.
Perhaps, to help out New York's troubles, the Saudis or Dubains can buy up the office space in 15 Penn Plaza and add a minaret on top with the blessings of dhimmis like Bloomberg and Scott Stringer and the rest of the City Council. Wouldn't that be a laugh?
Going, going, soon gone....