The sun shone brightly on a gorgeous June weekday afternoon in Central Park. A sudden chill surprised Victoria Keane and her sons enjoying their time at a park playground, as the sky darkened. A passing cloud? An approaching storm? Nope, just the long shadow cast by One57, a new megatower on West 57th Street.
One57 recently broke the record for the highest price paid for a NYC residence: More than $100 million. The 1,004-foot skyscraper will be joined in 2018 by the Nordstrom Tower at 217 W. 57th. Other mega high-rises on what is being called "billionaires row" are also under construction. Many of these new luxury palaces are being purchased by rich foreign investors.
Many New Yorkers look up at this rapidly developing, haphazard new skyline and see red. Manhattan's Community Board 5 recently asked for a moratorium on construction of all buildings 600 feet or higher without them first undergoing a public review, giving city officials time to study the impact of these new skyscrapers.
Meanwhile, the race to the sky continues. According to the board's Sunshine Task Force (desperate times call for desperate names), "seven new supertall buildings are underway along the 57th Street corridor," with more skyscrapers in the planning stages.
The board recently held a packed meeting to air grievances. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer demanded more transparency regarding air-rights transfers to developers, and expressed concern about the shadows cast by these gargantuan structures.
But Gary Barnett, president of Extell Development Co., the developer of One57, has said "the shadows cast by these tall, slender buildings . . . are very brief" and that the structures are creating many permanent jobs.
Back in Central Park, Keane's older son said the shadow on the playground reminded him of an episode of "The Simpsons" in which evil gazillionaire Monty Burns plunged the town of Springfield into darkness just because he could.
So, are the new skyscrapers a blight or a jobs-creating tribute to progress and prosperity? I guess that depends on your perspective -- whether you're high up in the gleaming towers, or down on the shaded ground with Keane, her sons and the rest of us.