New Times Newsroom Still Low-Slung

101606 article otr New Times Newsroom Still Low SlungAre you feeling lucky, Nicholas Kristof? When The New York Times moves to its new Eighth Avenue headquarters next year, the 10th floor will become the 13th floor.

Progress is not sentimental. So next spring, the opinion-page offices will be pried out of their ornate and ancient home on the upper floors of West 43rd Street to take their place on the not-at-all-upper floors of Renzo Piano’s 52-story futuristic tower.

For generations, the layout of the old Times Building has served as the physical manifestation of the organizational culture: From the back-of-the-newsroom clerks to the Sulzberger on the 14th floor, Timesmen have known their place by knowing their places.

The Timesian timelessness, however, is coming to an end. In July, the new Times tower was topped off. The façade is now in place up to the 42nd floor, and through the windows of the lower stories, newly installed interior walls are visible.

So the paper is reconfiguring to fit its new home. There are seating charts and seating floor plans.

And there are protective measures around the new arrangements: After Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty agreed to set up interviews with company executives David Thurm and Hussain Ali-Khan to discuss the transition to the new tower, the Times press office canceled the interviews. Developer Forest City Ratner, the real-estate company that shares ownership of the building with The Times, agreed to schedule a tour, then said it would have to be delayed because of internal work on the building. The Times press office then e-mailed to say that no media tours were available.

Ms. McNulty and other members of the Times press office failed to return several days’ worth of messages and phone calls seeking further comment.

On Oct. 7, Mr. Piano’s renderings were display in Forest City’s 18th-floor design gallery next door, overlooking the Times tower site, as part of the weekend’s Open House New York design and architecture event.

As the modest three-story change in the opinion department’s elevation suggests, the future of The Times will have some features in common with the present. Metro reporters will not be surveying the city from a 50th-floor aerie. Unless they go to the rooftop garden for a smoke break, Times staffers won’t get much of a skyscraper experience at all.

The architectural center of news operations—the relocated newsroom—won’t even be in the Times tower, exactly. Instead, it will be in the building’s extended podium, the low-slung five-story box stretching south from the tower toward 40th Street.

The ground floor of the podium will feature the Times amphitheater and an open arcade of shops—no Taco Bell, please! The newsroom will be on floors 2 through 4.

Even the upper-level operations of the Times will stop at the 27th floor. Then comes a story of mechanical equipment. Everything heading heavenward from there belongs to Forest City.

A slim tower, it turns out, is an impractical home for a newspaper.

“If you look at it, it has a much bigger footprint,” deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman said of the podium. “It goes way back, and covers more than half a block. So you can get many more people on a floor, and it improves the flow of things without going down elevators and stairs. If we were in the tower part, it’s a much smaller footprint. You’d have to take up a whole bunch of floors, and it’s much clumsier.”

Mr. Landman characterized the change in layout as “not new in kind, just degree.”

The podium will also hold the paper’s Web staff, currently divided among scattered places in the 43rd Street building and additional space at 500 Seventh Avenue. Mr. Landman has been in charge of integrating Web operations with the newsroom, but physical integration has to wait till 2007.

“You weren’t going to spend money to rebuild the 43rd Street newsroom, only to abandon it eight months later,” said Mr. Landman. “There’s just a limited amount of space here. You can’t bring as many people as you like. Over there, where you are starting new, and there’s plenty of space, you can do what you want.”

“We are very much looking forward to not having to run back and forth on Seventh Avenue,” Mr. Landman said. “I’m a big believer in physical fitness, but there are better ways to get exercise.”

Deputy editorial-page editor Andrew Rosenthal said he was looking forward to getting his own Web colleagues together on the 13th floor.

“It will be so much better when you can just say ‘Hey’ across the table or down the hallway,” said Mr. Rosenthal. “Wouldn’t it be cool to get five bloggers on tonight to talk about North Korea, rather than having to phone or walk down to the garment district?”

So the antique ornamentation will have to go. “We have Arts and Crafts transoms over our window,” Mr. Rosenthal said, with some regret. The 10th-floor library—the centerpiece of the department—will likewise be missed, he said.

—Michael Calderone

skinnyblueline New Times Newsroom Still Low Slung

Hearst So Good: Oprah Touches Gleaming Shaft at Gala

Oprah Winfrey moved slowly through the opening-gala crowd on the café level of the Hearst Tower, three floors up in the building’s vast atrium. She paused at a huge steel beam, which stretched all the way to the ceiling, 10 stories high, and ran her hand along the metal, gazing upward.

After the celebrity guests had traversed the Eighth Avenue red carpet, through the flashbulbs, they passed through the entrance and underwent a transformation from gogglees to gogglers: that atrium! The indoor waterfall! Actual oohs and ahhs were audible.

The waterfall—three stories, rainwater-supplied—has a name. It’s called “Icefall.” Later, there would be acrobats soaring over it. But first, cocktails!

Hearst C.E.O. Victor Ganzi, Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black, corporate director Gilbert Maurer and board vice chairman Frank Bennack received guests after the three-story escalator ride to the café, shaking hands and posing for photos. At lunchtime, the café is bathed in natural light through the windows of the original six-story Hearst building, designed by Joseph Urban and now hollowed into a shell—from which Norman Foster’s gleaming new tower juts skyward. For the gala, there were color-filtered spotlights playing turquoise and purple across the waterfall.

The windows facing Eighth Avenue were filled with hundreds of flickering candles; more candles were scattered throughout the party space. There were couches—purple, blue and gray—and plush pillows scattered around. Waiters offered cheese puffs and shot glasses of lobster consommé. On the north wall a shimmering white curtain hid the stage.

The night’s special cocktail was called the Tower: gin, lime juice and Champagne.

S.I. (Si) Newhouse was there. How did the ruler of the Condé Nast building like this new showpiece magazine headquarters? Mr. Newhouse smiled indulgently, gave the questioner a grandfatherly tap on the shoulder, and turned away.

Mayor Bloomberg and Diana Taylor arrived. So did Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko and MSNBC’s Dan Abrams. Also: Dan Rather, Yue-Sai Kan, Leonard Lauder and Celerie Kemble. And Hearst royalty, both professional and biological—Helen Gurley Brown and Amanda Hearst.

“I want you to meet someone,” Ms. Black said to Ms. Winfrey. The someone was former Hewlett-Packard C.E.O. and chair Carly Fiorina (not to be confused with freshly resigned HP chair Patricia Dunn). Less than 24 hours after the gala, Ms. Fiorina was scheduled to be fêted in the Hearst Tower for the publication of her memoir, Tough Choices.

Ms. Winfrey—founder and editorial director of O, The Oprah Magazine—was dressed in red. O editor-at-large Gayle King stood nearby.

How did Ms. Winfrey feel about the new magazine headquarters? “I think the whole building is completely out of the box,” Ms. Winfrey said.

“Now I have an office!” she said, reaching out with a handclasp for emphasis. Her hand was warm. “Before, I didn’t have an office.”

Senator Charles Schumer was likewise clasping hands, working the room. “This is a win-win-win for New York,” Mr. Schumer said, rattling off the tower’s business, environmental and architectural virtues.

“It’s a major hip corporation with their headquarters in the media capital,” Mr. Schumer said.

Over by the food—courtesy of Danny Meyer—a server sliced an heirloom-tomato tart in half for the Mayor. “Perfecto,” Mr. Bloomberg said. He passed up creamed polenta and a salad of Greenmarket beans and went for the short ribs. Other guests came up to greet him, and the Mayor offered them some meat.

“It’s a great addition to the skyline,” Mr. Bloomberg said. Better than Cesar Pelli’s Bloomberg Building? Both are great buildings, the Mayor said.

Later, taking the podium, Mr. Bloomberg told the crowd that the Hearst Tower was “tied for second place” among the city’s shimmering new media headquarters. Laughter followed.

Mr. Schumer followed, thanking Mr. Foster for giving New York “some grand architecture.” Then the architect himself spoke, hailing a “greener, more ecological future.” As he concluded his remarks, two well-built, shirtless men climbed up onto pedestals near the railing overlooking the waterfall. White-clad women appeared in the beams high above.

“I give you Hearst Tower!” Mr. Foster declared. The sound system kicked in, and the women came swinging down from the rafters, twirling satiny white fabric in their wake. The men leaped off the podiums, and back-and-forth swinging ensued. When the performance was over, the fabric was draped from one side of the atrium to the other.

Then came a familiar-sounding keyboard riff, and the curtain rose on the stage. “Oh shit, Stevie!” a guest said, as the crowd pivoted 90 degrees from the acrobats to see Stevie Wonder playing “Superstition.”

Mr. Wonder played for about an hour. A handful of attendees danced.

Toward the end of the set, some guests began heading up to the tower’s 44th floor, which holds private dining rooms, a library and the boardroom—and features panoramic views. Coffee and miniature ice-cream cones were served.

Near the elevator, Katie Couric rounded a corner to see Bryant Gumbel. There was a shriek of delight—from whom was unclear—and a Today show reunion hug. Ms. Couric told Mr. Gumbel his hair was getting long. They posed for pictures.

On the way out, guests received Nicole Miller neckties. The ties were purple and blue, with the Hearst Tower’s lattice pattern running across them, in gold.

—M.C.