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FeaturedREBNY Watch

Why New York City will always be hooked on high rise

By John Banks, president, REBNY

Over the summer, some public officials issued a letter to Mayor de Blasio’s City Planning chair, Carl Weisbrod voicing concerns over “super-tall” buildings along the 57th Street corridor below Central Park.

Among their grievances listed were the lack of approval needed to build these large towers, the shadows cast over Central Park, the vulnerability of historic resources, construction safety, and tax subsidies related to the previous 421-a program.

Chair Weisbrod acknowledged the importance of Central Park as a public amenity, but he also emphasized the importance of as-of-right development to New York City’s built environment, its economy, and its character as a global city.
REBNY would like to echo these sentiments.

The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in New York from 1930-31
The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in New York from 1930-31

Weisbrod points out that the area of Manhattan under debate has always been a commercial area of high density and bulk which permits residential use.

The concentrations of mass transit in the area, as well as its status as the city’s premier business district make it a suitable location for these buildings.

These “super-tall” buildings were all constructed using the district’s zoning regulations, and the existing bulk and density regulations are entirely appropriate for this part of town.

There are also many other benefits to high-rise buildings. The creation of LEED certification by the United States Green Building Council in 2000 sparked a wide range of innovations in tall buildings.

These buildings have better environmental performance than those constructed two decades ago and those that they replaced, and will play a crucial role in helping our city achieve its ambitious environmental goals.

Additionally, the smaller footprint of these towers makes better use of our available land, and utilizing air rights — which many of these towers do — will preserve the lower scale of the surrounding buildings in perpetuity.

Finally, there is the issue of shadows being cast over Central Park.

Weisbrod points out that “the shadows of tall, slender towers move more swiftly and efficiently than those of squatter buildings with a similar built FAR,” meaning that newly-designed towers have less of a shadow impact on Central Park than older, bulkier buildings, and are therefore less of an impact to the park.

The skyscraper wars got even more intense this week when New York YIMBY reported that 217 West 57th St., also known as the Nordstrom Tower, increased its spire by 20 feet, which will make the building 1,795 feet tall. That's 19 feet taller than One World Trade Center, the current tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. But Extell Development Company president Gary Barnett debunked the report, telling the New York Post that the building will stay at 1,775 feet (one foot shorter than 1WTC) "out of respect."
At 1,775 ft., the Nordstrom Tower at 217 West 57th Street will be one foot shorter than the city’s tallest building at 1WTC.

In addition, Weisbrod noted that the de Blasio administration has made significant changes in the 421a program which prevents the use of this program for Manhattan condos and co-ops as well as luxury condos outside Manhattan.
High-rise buildings are an integral part of the City’s look, feel, economy, and ambience. They contribute to its world-famous skyline, which attracts millions of tourists every year.
They have a positive effect on our environment and they generate jobs and tax revenue.
New York City has a long history of embracing tall buildings — the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and 1 World Trade Center, to name a few.
Tall buildings are closely connected to our identity and our economy, and are part of what makes New York the greatest city in the world.

In other REBNY News:
October 8 is REBNY’s next Secrets of Top Brokers and Industry Leaders seminar. Join us in the Mendik Education Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. to hear our panel of real estate experts examine and present current trends in real estate to enhance the professional knowledge of each attending agent. Registration is required, and more information can be found on, or by contacting Yesenia Dhanraj at
October 13 is the Residential Division’s next Breakfast Club Seminar in the Mendik Education Center. These seminars are an informative, interactive, and free way for participants to spend 90 minutes with dynamic residential colleagues who are known for a particular expertise. Registration is required. To find out more, visit or contact Yesenia Dhanraj at
REBNY’s New Member seminar, “Keys to Commercial Real Estate,” takes place on October 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Mendik Education Center. Moderated by Cushman & Wakefield’s James Nelson, the panel includes Randy Modell, William Montana, and Joanne Podell.
To register for the members-only free seminar, login to

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