Even though the design for what may become the Upper West Side’s tallest tower is receiving accolades in the trade media, current residents warn they will oppose the project.
Even though New York City is historically known for its iconic skyline of skyscrapers, some Manhattan residents and advocacy groups, such as Landmark West, are saying the latest round of supertall towers are adding too much mass, density, and height to their neighborhoods. At the same time, the feats of architecture and engineering design involved in planning and constructing these skyscrapers bring recognition from the trade media and developers alike. The latest design released by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta is no exception – the architectural world has given high praise for the lines and forms illustrated in the latest plans for what might become the Upper West Side’s tallest tower while people who live nearby are promising to fight to prevent the plans from being realized. What features are unique to Snøhetta’s design for the tower? What reasons do residents give for opposing the project?
Snøhetta: The Firm and Their Proposed Design for the Upper West Side’s Tallest Tower
The Norwegen architectural design firm is no stranger to projects in New York City or the United States. Examples of some of their US projects and current proposals include:
- 550 Madison Avenue in East Midtown
- Reconstruction of Times Square
- Temple University Library, Philadelphia, PA
- Proposal for the Obama Presidential Library Center, Honolulu, HI
- Slack’s NYC Office Space
Their latest design, commissioned by Extell Development, is for a 775-foot residential tower on 66th Street sited above a synagogue that faces 65th Street. According to ArchDaily, the goal of the design is to give recognition to its historic surroundings, which include Central Park and Lincoln Center, by their use of complex lines and forms. The primary materials Snøhetta chose for the exterior of their building include textured limestone, burnished bronze, and glass.
As the height of the building increases, carved out sections of the tower limit some of the massing of the structure in an effort to keep the structure at a “human scale” near ground level.
At the 16th floor, the tower “splits” to give way to an intricately landscaped amenity terrace. Above the 16th floor, the “excavated” lines of the building provide space for private balconies. According to Snøhetta, the carved form of the facade of 50 West 66th Street are to give homage to NYC’s geologic legacy.
The Reasons Neighborhood Advocacy Groups Oppose the Project
Both Landmark West!, a non-profit Upper West Side group dedicated to preserving cultural and historic landmarks, and the 125 year old Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS)have expressed concerns about the 50 West 66th Street project. In addition, The Real Deal and Curbed NY both report that New York City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, and New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried have informed Extell Development about their opposition to the project.
The issues raised by advocacy groups and public officials include the following:
- The construction of a supertall tower with little to no public input
- Doubts whether the structure follows the guidelines for buildings in the Special Lincoln Square District
- The potential for a lack of accountability for the developer of the project
- Questions about the acquisition of air rights that increased the proposed height of the building from 262 feet in 2015 to the latest proposed height of 775 feet
- The design of the tower is out of context for the surrounding neighborhood
- The shadow of the skyscraper will further darken Central Park with its shadow
- The height of the building will alter the historic NYC skyline.
While final plans have yet to be filed, the developer plans to commence construction in 2018.
What is your opinion of the plans for 50 West 66th Street? How would you handle opposition to the project?