If King Kong were to swing into New York sometime this decade, he might actually have a hard time figuring out where to go.
In the original 1933 black-and-white classic, King Kong famously scales the two-year-old Empire State Building, cementing it in the conscience of the world as arguably its most famous skyscraper. Four decades later, the giant gorilla set his sights higher, standing astride the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Today, perhaps he might climb atop their succesor, the new 1 World Trade Center. But one gets the sense that King Kong is given to gigantism, so only the city’s tallest tower will do.
Until a few months ago, that would have been 1 World Trade. But since 432 Park Avenue began to rise skyward in April, the 1,397-foot condo tower developed by Harry Macklowe and CIM on the old Drake Hotel site would have claimed the skyline crown. It beats out its downtown rival by 29 feet, so long as one ignores the silly 400-foot sorta spire atop 1 World Trade. Should King Kong arrive sometime in 2014, this slinky tower would probably be his choice.
But a year or two after that, and he might turn his gaze further down 57th Street, past the already striking 1,005-foot One57 tower, Gary Barnett’s billionaire bauble nearing completion despite that crane accident. There it would settle on another tower being developed by Mr. Barnett, at 225 West 57th Street, just one block from what was already going to be the city’s tallest apartment building when it opens next year. The new tower’s height, according to building permits filed last week: 1,550 feet.
PR maven Ronn Torossian, who was evacuated from his offices at 888 Seventh Avenue, has been passing around an op-ed to outlets across the city, Gothamist among them. He blames Extell Development for failing to maintain its now-crushed crane at One57, accuses the firm of negligence and mismanagement and endangering the people and economy of the city. “A thorn and open question remains the 90-story residential tower, One57,” Mr. Torossian writes, in his piece titled “Shame on Extell Development and Gary Barnett.”
“The city of New York should demand that Extell and Barnett pay back the city, residents and businesses back for the millions it will cost because of their negligence,” he concludes.
Extell released the following statement to The Observer taking Mr. Torossian to task for trying to capitalize on this misfortune.
For the past few hours, New Yorkers’ eyes have been trained on the skies, or at least their TV and computer screens. No, they are not watching out for the eye of the storm but the crane that Hurricane Sandy has dislodged in Midtown Manhattan. The boom of the crane attached to the billionaire-beloved One57 snapped back earlier today and has been hanging precariously ever since, but it has yet to break free, and the hope is that will be the situation until the storm passes.
At a press briefing this evening, Mayor Bloomberg said all buildings on West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues have been evacuated, as well as “exposed buildings” on the same block of West 56th Street. Among the buildings evacuated were a hotel and some apartment and office buildings. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but better safe than sorry,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
The accident occurred at 2:35 p.m. today, according to a statement from Lend Lease, the general contractor on the project, the tallest apartment building in the city, at 1,005 feet, and also home to the most expensive sale ever, more than $90 million for the penthouse.
Mayor Bloomberg said the surrounding area had been secured, with steam, electricity and gas all being shut off to prevent any additional damage should the crane’s boom come loose.
Sometime this afternoon, the boom of a crane atop One57 snapped back and now hangs precariously from the cab of the crane. So far nothing has fallen from the structure.
“Can’t talk now but we don’t know anything yet,” Gary Barnett, developer of One57, just told The Observer in a brief phone interview. “We’re doing everything we can, and hopefully no one is going to get hurt.”
The MAS Summit has offered plenty of rousing discussions about design and architecture in the city, and cities around the globe, for the past two days at the Time Warner Center. But there was also an unexpected architectural treat outside. As readers are well aware, we here at The Observer are rather obsessed with One57 and its skyward march. Now, for the first time we have seen, the curving cornice of the building has been installed.
This revelation was exciting not simply for the continued progress of the city’s biggest apartment building and the reshaping of the Central Park skyline, but also because of something we learned while reporting this week’s feature on Goldstein, Hill & West: it was they, and not the celebrated Christian de Portzamparc, who is responsible for the crown of One57.
The sun was setting over New York harbor, and behind it, the coast of New Jersey. From the 17th floor of 11 Broadway, through the not-floor-to-ceiling, turn-of-the-last-century office windows, the Statue of Liberty was plainly visible. She appeared to be waving through the late-summer haze. Milling about and sipping champagne were some of the city’s biggest developers and their employees, names emblazoned upon apartment towers from this end of Manhattan to the other and beyond.
Silverstein, Ratner, Extell, Elad, Milstein, Glenwood, Trump. All the big firms were there, along with many other machers and dealmakers. It could have been a convention of The No Nonsense Apartment Builders Association of the Greater Five Boroughs. Instead it was the third anniversary party for Goldstein, Hill & West and the unveiling of their new downtown offices.
The foyer is painted a slick graphite gray, with a globular chandelier overhead, but beyond that, the designer pretense fades away. There are no amoebic benches, no plywood bookcases, no 3D printer for producing models of unusually torqued and cantilevered buildings. Little hangs on the walls besides drafting templates and zoning handbooks. It is this simplicity of design, aesthetic and attitude that draws the city’s biggest developers to the firm.
These days hard hats are the non plus ultra of chic accessories. They make a Birkin bag look so pedestrian! And having one’s hair coiffed and colored to perfection at Frederic Fekkai is all well and good, but it’s nothing without the windblown disarray that one achieves from standing on a high floor of an unfinished skyscraper.
Yes, the best way to show off one’s money, powers of persuasion and impressive social connections is scoring a ride to the top of One57 or One World Trade Center. (Any other building that begins with “One” and recently had a topping out ceremony would also be a good bet). Why bother dropping names when you can drop an experience that illustrates you know all the names worth dropping?
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
You might think that life would be impossibly pleasant for the set wealthy enough to buy magisterial spreads on the top fifteen floors of One57. But The New York Times reports that a potential storm is brewing on the building’s uppermost floors. Extell is deeply concerned that members of the “billionaire’s club” will clash with each other as they undertake massive renovations to the yet-to-be finished spaces.
Has the Upper West Side fallen for an eight-acre bait and switch?
At least one and possibly all five towers at the massive Riverside Center development will not be the work of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc. The French designer helped Extell Development and the Carlyle Group sell their swank plans‘ to the community and the City Planning Commission. The latter was so taken with the crystalline designs of Mr. de Portzamparc, who also designed the LVMH headquarters and Extell’s One57 tower, that restrictive zoning covenants were set to ensure the buildings would look as promised.
But now, Extell and Carlyle have turned over one of their tower sites to the Dermot Company, which has hired local firm SLCE to design the apartment building on the West End Avenue section of the site. While Dermot insists its project will be up to the standards promised during last year’s public review process, some, including the exacting City Planning chair Amanda Burden, worry the design doppelgangers will lead to lesser work.
Best Laid Plans
Last Friday night on far west Spring Street, the Ear Inn was crowded as usual. A mix of neighborhood regulars and happy-hour-indulging co-workers from the nearby loft buildings—architects, ad execs, programmers, writers—were crammed around the mahogany bar imbibing. Others were gathered outside around benches on the uncrowned sidewalk two blocks from the West Side Highway.
The bar has been there for 195 years, but forget asking for some sort of mixological cocktail that could be found at hundreds of establishments citywide pretending at this sort of authenticity. Above the bar, beyond the shelves of dusty liquor bottles, are glass carboys, ruddy green and brown glass, the size of harbor buoys. They held wine more than a century ago and disappeared into the bowels of the basement, only to be excavated in the 1970s when the bar was made over by a band of eccentric artists. One of their rank tended bar until five years ago. He has since moved upstate. Things change, then they don’t.
“We’ve gotten the holy trinity of Pret a Manger, Starbucks and Hale & Hearty soups, but otherwise the neighborhood looks the way you imagine it did 100 years ago,” said James Parvin, a segment producer at NBC who lives in a loft he converted himself on nearby Charlton Street.