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Empire State owner loses bid to stop new skyscraper neighbour

The Empire State Building’s owner lost his bid to stop a new skyscraper from rising in the neighbourhood when the New York City Council approved zoning and land use changes yesterday that pave the way for the 1,190ft tower.

The project, called 15 Penn Plaza, is still in the planning stages. Developer Vornado Realty Trust has not set a date for its construction and has yet to sign a major commercial tenant.

But the plans alone for a glass office tower, which would stand higher than the Empire State Building’s 86-floor observatory, infuriated the landmark’s owner, Anthony Malkin, so much that he called it an “assault on New York City and its iconography.”

Council members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the project. They said New York City and its skyline cannot afford to be frozen in time and must embrace new investments.

“We can’t make decisions based on one building,” said Councilman Mark Weprin. “The city has to grow, and it’s going to continue to grow.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also backed the project this week, dismissing Malkin’s argument as delusional.

“Anybody that builds a building in New York City changes its skyline – we don’t have to run around to every other owner and apologize,” he said. “One guy owns a building, he’d like to have it be the only tall building – I’m sorry, that’s not the real world.”

Renderings of the proposed building – designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects – show a skyscraper shaped like a giant chisel atop a block. It tapers to a flat edge at the peak and is marked by a top-to-bottom groove on its face.

Malkin had lobbied the council to cut the tower by one-third the proposed height.

He said in a statement after the vote that the owners believed the new building’s height and design encroached on the most iconic image in New York’s skyline. But he conceded that the City Council had the final say.

“They have gone out of their way to listen to our position,” he said. “In the end […] it was up to them to decide.”

A spokesman for the developer released a statement thanking those connected with the approval of the project, which the company believes “will be an outstanding addition to New York’s iconic skyline.”

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