Chef Philippe Massoud is Lebanese, a fact that has made both his life and his cuisine complicated. While the times now are at a dizzying high (his restaurant, Ilili, has grown into a rave hit for the midtown crowd and is attracting executives, celebrities and royalty alike), he was also forced to flee his home Read More
When the plan to rezone Midtown East was revealed last year, there was much excitement and much grumbling, but the outlines of the battle to come lacked definition. In retrospect, it seems so inevitable: how could the conflict over the heart and soul of the city’s central business district take any shape but that of progress versus preservation?
It is a conflict that haunts, if not defines, every land use debate in the city, and a particularly fitting one for Midtown. The district developed around, and largely because of, Grand Central station—a building that not only epitomizes the conflict, but helped to define it.
The N.Y.P.D. may have a person of interest in the tragic subway homicide that occurred at the 49th Street N/Q/R Midtown station Monday afternoon.
Queens resident Ki-Suck Han died Monday when witnesses say another man pushed him onto the subway tracks after a confrontation. Mr. Han attempted to climb back on the platform but couldn’t make it and died from injuries suffered after he was struck by the Q train.
No sooner did Extell Development file permits for a new 1,550-foot residential tower on the corner of 57th Street and Broadway then scaffolding started to go up around one of the final properties comprising Gary Barnett’s little west side assemblage that will be home to the city’s tallest tower. On Friday morning, The Observer happened to be out for a stroll on the crosstown boulevard when we noticed construction workers assembling a sidewalk shed, the first sign of construction commencement.
A source close to Extell confirms that demolition will soon begin on 1780 Broadway, a 12-story building that was once home to BF Goodrich. At the time, this corner of Gotham was known as Automobile Row during the Gilded Age. Because of an agreement with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the facade of 1780 Broadway must be retained as part of any new building, so this will presumably be a careful deconstruction.
Best Laid Plans
Basically everybody but the Bloomberg administration and select landlords in the area wants to see the Midtown East Rezoning delayed. While there is a general consensus that creating room for bigger, more modern office buildings in the heart of the city’s central business district makes sense, many planners and community groups fear the administration is rushing the plan to get it done on the mayor’s watch, rather than taking the necessary time to figure out exactly what to build.
Now, the three community boards directly effected by the rezoning are calling on Governor Cuomo to intervene, and their rationale is an interesting, if desperate, one.
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.
Mayor Bloomberg’s push to transform the area around Grand Central Terminal may or may not be the sort of legacy project that chief executives embrace on their way out the door.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what the mayor’s motivations are. What matters is that it’s a visionary proposal to bring the eastern portion of Midtown into the 21st century.
If the City Council approves the mayor’s rezoning plan, an area bounded by 39th Street and 57th Street east of Fifth Avenue will be transformed over the coming years. The neighborhood’s aging buildings will be replaced by towers that will soar higher than some of the East Side’s iconic landmarks, including, perhaps, the Chrysler Building. The rezoning plan would rewrite current rules that have limited the height of buildings in the areas.
Potential construction projects could add enough office space to house 16,000 additional workers and would bring a 21st century look and feel to a district that threatens to become tired and outdated in the coming decades. The mayor would like to have the plan in place by the time he leaves office at the end of next year, but that would require City Council approval by next October.
There’s no guarantee that Mr. Bloomberg will get his way on this, but the council’s rejection of the plan would be unfortunate.
Best Laid Plans
We’re kind of embarrassed to admit that this never occurred to us until just now, reading The Times‘ recap of the Midtown East debate. Sure, all the familiar arguments on both sides are there—the city is moving too fast, the city is not moving fast enough, the buildings are too big, they are not big enough, we must compete, we must consider the consequence—but there is also are new argument that should have been obvious from the start, though no one has brought it up, at least not publicly, until Charles Bagli spelled it right out.
So we are obsessed with the changing skyline along 57th Street, so we are always excited and intrigued by new renderings that pop up for it. The latest may also be the greatest, and while 432 Park Avenue is nothing new, the pic that ran in The Times today gives the clearest indication yet of just how big this spindly behemoth will be. At 1,397 feet, the ritzy condo building surpasses 1 World Trade Center, less its spire, by 29 feet, boasting by some measures the biggest building in New York status.
Everyone has been praying for the inclusion of churches and synagogues in the Midtown East rezoning, but no one has checked in on the situation of hotels yet.
The religious institutions fear they will not be able to profit from the rezoning the same way their private neighbors will. Now, the hotel union and its political backers are worrying that hoteliers might be in the opposite position, of profiting too much from the rezoning. They are requesting that the Department of City Planning require special permits for new hotel development within the rezoning area. So far, the Department of City Planning has reservations about the proposal.