Wolfe Grins? Rosen Gets 980 Madison O.K.–for Stumpier Tower

980 madison2 10 10 09 Wolfe Grins? Rosen Gets 980 Madison O.K.  for Stumpier Tower It’s been a long three years for Aby Rosen.

The landlord and art collector has tried for that long to get approval for an apartment tower at Madison Avenue and 77th Street designed by British starchitect Norman Foster. He’s gone to hearing after hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission, repeatedly rebuffed with instructions to cut the building down and make it more harmonious with the historic Upper East Side that surrounds it.

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, the commission—either satisfied with the latest design, or perhaps simply wishing to wash their hands of it—gave Mr. Rosen the green light he was looking for. In an entirely different economy, that is.

The new building, which would rise four stories out of the landmarked 980 Madison Avenue, a former home to Sotheby’s built in 1949. The new top would be coated with a bronze screen, capping out at 108 feet.

More harmonious, perhaps, but the design and surrounding controversy are now quite a bit more boring then back in 2006, when Mr. Rosen proposed a distinctive 30-story elliptical skyscraper to soar from the limestone building. That design provoked Upper East Side outrage, with no less than Tom Wolfe writing a scathing op-ed in The New York Times.

Consistent with the state of the fight, Mr. Rosen’s statement was rather boring: “You can build with distinction in an historic district if you respond responsibly and work collaboratively with the Landmarks Commission.”

ebrown@observer.com