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Image of WWP via Macklowe Properties

What does it take to jump-start an unglamorous neighborhood? A huge development? A mixed-use project? New transit facilities?

When this full-block, mixed-use development project was conceived in the mid-1980s the area in and around Times Square was one of the city’s worst. It was riddled with crime and pornography and was run-down, especially along Eighth Avenue. The proposition to add a building that was the scale of the full-block One Worldwide Plaza development, therefore, was not only surprising, but shocking and downright unthinkable.

The legendary Madison Square Garden designed by Thomas W. Lamb had occupied its site from 1925 to 1966, but its second incarnation here was rather ramshackle especially in comparison to its previous glorious building on Madison Avenue at 26th Street. When it moved south next to the “new” Penn Station 16 blocks to the south, this site became the city’s largest parking lot and it took about a decade and a half for it to find a new life. The site was finally developed and completed in 1989 by a syndicate headed by William Zeckendorf Jr. that included Arthur Cohen and Worldwide Realty partners Frank Stanton and Victor Elmaleh.

more on the rise of worldwide plaza and how it revived midtown manhattan

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Architecture, Carter Uncut, Features, Starchitecture, Urban Design

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s latest development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. Ahead, Carter brings us his ninth and final installment of “Skyline Wars,” a series that examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter takes at aim the quality of design of those towers rising around the city right now, and how they fail to inspire when compared to those found internationally.

The explosive transformation of the New York City skyline now underway is occurring without any plan in a very haphazard fashion. Some of the new towers are not ugly but compared to many new ones elsewhere, especially those that are free-standing, they’re not going to win many top honors. Many are very thin, mid-block incursions. Others arrogantly abut and loom over landmarks with nary a thought to context. Some clearly are aimed at one-percenters and offer lavish amenities and layouts. But many others are squeezing potential residents like sardines into very small apartments in attempts to set new “density” records.

The towers that got it wrong, and right

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Architecture, Carter Uncut, Features, Urban Design

Skyline Wars: Accounting for New York’s Stray Supertalls

By Carter B. Horsley, Wed, May 11, 2016

skyline strays

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s latest development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. Ahead, Carter brings us his eighth installment of “Skyline Wars,” a series that examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter looks at the “stray” supertalls rising in low slung neighborhoods.

Most of the city’s recent supertall developments have occurred in traditional high-rise commercial districts such as the Financial District, the Plaza District, downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. Some are also sprouting in new districts such as the Hudson Yards in far West Midtown.

There are, however, some isolated “stray” supertalls that are rising up in relatively virgin tall territories, such as next to the Manhattan Bridge on the Lower East Side and Sutton Place.

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Architecture, Carter Uncut, Features, New Jersey, real estate trends, Urban Design

jersey city skyline

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s latest development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. Here, Carter brings us his seventh installment of “Skyline Wars,” a series that examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter looks at the new New Jersey skyline.

The hulking, 781-foot-high Goldman Sachs tower at 30 Hudson Street in Jersey City is like the Rock of Gilbraltar to Lower Manhattan’s famed skyline: massive and impressive. To some, perhaps, it conjures a Monty Python catapult or a very steep cliff on which to mount the Guns of Navarone for an assault on Lower Manhattan. It dominates the Jersey City skyline, which is a bit Spartan, especially in comparison with Brooklyn’s. Most of the skyscrapers in Brooklyn, however, are not directly on the waterfront and the Goldman tower is very much “in your face” on the water. Furthermore, all of a relative sudden, Jersey City is about to explode with three taller towers, which I can only describe as delirious, dancing, shimmy-shimmy-shake buildings with drop-dead vistas of Manhattan and the Hudson.

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Architecture, Carter Uncut, Features, Long Island City, Queens, Urban Design

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s latest development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. Here, Carter brings us his sixth installment of “Skyline Wars,” a series that examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter looks at the new towers defining the Queens skyline.

For a long time, the glass tower erected by Citibank was the lone skyscraper of note in Queens. Known initially as Citicorp at Court Square, it was built in 1989 and designed by Raul de Armas of SOM as a blue-green metal-panel-and-glass office tower with just a few setbacks at its 633-foot-high top—an extremely clean-cut, modern obelisk of fine proportions.

In a 1988 article in The New York Times, Anthony DePalma wrote that the tower “dominates the Queens skyline like a sequoia in the desert” and Paul Goldberger, then the newspaper’s architecture critic, wrote the tower was “rapidly becoming one of the most conspicuous structures in the entire city.” He added, “It is a very unlikely thing, this building—no other skyscraper in New York is remotely like the Citicorp tower, not so much for its design as for the fact that it stands free, alone in this landscape of gas stations, warehouses and row houses,”

The bank tower transformed “the landscape of New York” and “no longer does Manhattan virtually by itself control the skyline,” Mr. Goldberger continued. “Skyscrapers built at random all over New York would be devastating, but an occasional exclamation point, well designed and carefully placed, will do the skyline no grievous harm,” he concluded. This is a very important but also very controversial point as currently evidenced in Manhattan where traditional precincts are being pin-pricked to exhaustion and confusion by supertalls.

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Architecture, Brooklyn, Carter Uncut, Downtown Brooklyn, Features, real estate trends, Urban Design

Skyline Wars: Brooklyn Enters the Supertall Race

By Carter B. Horsley, Wed, April 20, 2016

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s latest development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. Here, Carter brings us his fifth installment of “Skyline Wars,” a series that examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter looks at Brooklyn’s once demure skyline, soon to be Manhattan’s rival.

Downtown Brooklyn has had a modest but pleasant skyline highlighted by the 350-foot-high Court & Remsen Building and the 343-foot-high great ornate terraces of 75 Livingston Street, both erected in 1926, and the 462-foot-high flat top of the 1927 Montague Court Building. The borough’s tallest building, however, was the great 514-foot-high dome of the 1929 Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, now known as One Hanson Place, a bit removed to the east from Downtown Brooklyn. It remained as the borough’s tallest for a very long time, from 1929 until 2009. A flurry of new towers in recent years has significantly enlarged Brooklyn’s skyline. Since 2008, nine new towers higher than 359 feet have sprouted there, in large part as a result of a rezoning by the city in 2007. A few other towers have also given its riverfront an impressive frontage.

Whereas in the past the vast majority of towers were clustered about Borough Hall downtown, now there are several clusters with some around the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the former Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower and some around the Williamsburg riverfront.

more on Brooklyn’s skyline here

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Skyline Wars: In Lower Manhattan, A New Downtown Is Emerging

By Carter B. Horsley, Mon, April 18, 2016

carters view downtown manhattan

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s latest development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. This week Carter brings us his fourth installment of “Skyline Wars,” a series that examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter looks at the evolution of the Lower Manhattan skyline.

Lower Manhattan at the start of the Great Depression was the world’s most famous and influential skyline when 70 Pine, 20 Exchange Place, 1 and 40 Wall Street, and the Woolworth and Singer buildings inspired the world with their romantic silhouettes in a relatively balanced reach for the sky centered around the tip of Lower Manhattan.

Midtown was not asleep at the switch and countered with the great Empire State, the spectacular Chrysler and 30 Rockefeller Plaza but they were scattered and could not topple the aggregate visual power and lure of Lower Manhattan and its proverbial “view from the 40th floor” as the hallowed precinct of corporate America until the end of World War II.

The convenience and elegance of Midtown, however, became increasingly irresistible to many.

More on the the history of Lower Manhattan and what’s in store

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Carter Uncut, Construction Update, Features, Major Developments, Midtown West, Starchitecture, Urban Design

hudson yards skyline

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s breaking development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. This week Carter brings us the third installment of “Skyline Wars,” a series that examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter zooms in on Hudson Yards.

The Hudson Yards neighborhood in Far Midtown West is one of the country’s most active construction areas. Construction cranes dot its emerging skyline and dozens more are promised now with the district’s improved connection to the rest of the city. Last fall, the 7-line subway station at Eleventh Avenue and 34th Street opened with one-stop access to Times Square. The newly-minted station features a lengthy diagonal escalator bringing commuters to the front-door of the huge mixed-use project being created over the rail yards west of Tenth Avenue between 30th and 33rd streets. Originally, a second station was contemplated on 41st Street and Tenth Avenue but transit officials claimed it could not afford the $500 million expenditure, despite the enormous amount of new residential construction occurring along the far West 42nd Street corridor.

Nevertheless, the finished Hudson Yards station deposits straphangers into a new diagonal boulevard and park between 10th and 11th Avenues that will ultimately stretch from the Related Companies / Oxford Property Group’s Hudson Yards master plan northward to 42nd Street.

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carters view

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s breaking development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. This week Carter brings us the second installment of nine-part series, “Skyline Wars,” which examines the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. In this post Carter zooms in on Midtown East and the design of One Vanderbilt, the controversial tower that is being pinned as the catalyst for change in an area that has fallen behind in recent decades.

Despite some objections from community boards and local politicians, New York City is moving ahead with the rezoning of East Midtown between Fifth and Third avenues, and 39th and 59th Streets; and earlier this year, the de Blasio administration enacted an important part of the plan, a rezoning of the Vanderbilt Avenue corridor just to the west of Grand Central Terminal. The Vanderbilt Avenue rezoning included approval of a 1,501-foot-high tower at 1 Vanderbilt Avenue on the block bounded by Madison Avenue, 42nd and 43rd Streets. The tapered, glass-clad tower, topped by a spire, is being designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox for SL Green. Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio have championed the 1 Vanderbilt proposal despite serious concerns voiced by numerous civic organizations over the rezoning scheme that some see as “spot zoning” and the fact that the city has still not finalized nor published its complete rezoning package.

Using air-rights transfers from the Grand Central Terminal area and zoning bonuses for providing $210 million for infrastructure improvements in the area, the tower will significantly alter the midtown skyline, rising several hundred feet above the nearby Chrysler Building and the huge and bulky but lower MetLife Tower straddling Park Avenue just north of Grand Central Terminal. Its 63 stories are several less than the Chrysler Building and just a few more than the MetLife Tower, which might be interpreted by some observers as indicated that it was in “context” with such prominent neighbors, but they are wrong.

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Architecture, Carter Uncut, Central Park South, Features, Midtown, real estate trends

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. This week Carter kicks off a nine-part series, “Skyline Wars,” which will examine the explosive and unprecedented supertall phenomenon that is transforming the city’s silhouette. To start, Carter zooms in on the biggest developments shaping the southern corridor of Central Park.

They did not come from outer space when they landed on our front yard while the NIMBY folk and the city’s planners and preservationists weren’t looking. Some are scrawny. Some are dressed like respectable oldsters. They’re the supertalls and they’re coming to a site near you.

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Carter's View LaGuardia Airport, Carter's View, LaGuardia Airport, the new LaGuardia Airport

Carter Uncut brings New York City’s breaking development news under the critical eye of resident architecture critic Carter B. Horsley. This week Carter looks at the new $4 billion LaGuardia airport proposal

The recent announcement by Governor Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden of plans to “rebuild” La Guardia Airport at a cost of $4 billion was described in a Page One caption in The Post as “the end of an error,” a reference to the airport’s reputation that became tarnished over the years. Last October, Biden remarked that if someone had taken him to LaGuardia, he’d think he was in “some Third World country.”

Since its opening in 1939, when it accommodated “flying boats” at its Marine Air Terminal, the airport has not kept up with the growth of jumbo jets and air travel in general, but in the days of the Super Constellation passenger planes with their triple-tails and sloping noses, it was a very nice Art Deco place.

The published renderings that accompanied the announcement were not terribly reassuring, as they depicted a very long curved terminal with gangly tentacles raised over plane taxiways that hinted at torsos of praying mantises: an awkward rather than a graceful vault.

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frank gehry bilbao museum

Image: Frank Gehry against his design for the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain

The Foundation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Bologne in Paris recently opened and was another kudo for architect Frank O. Gehry whose Bilbao, Spain, branch of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1999 was widely regarded as the most important architecture project since the opening of the Pompidou Center in Paris in 1975. All these projects are Deconstructivist; they don’t fit easily into boxes and are not symmetrical. Their aesthetic tends to be chaotic, disorganized, aggressive, random and definitely unconventional, but also absolutely heroic, proud and defiant.

The Pompidou Center was huge and intimidating, a gargantuan power plant for some unfinished but gaily painted super ocean liner. By comparison, the Guggenheim was a shiny swirl of silvery metal cascading by its riverfront location in a staccato flurry of flamenco stomps. Vuitton is a whole other gesture altogether; an organic amorphous form about to devour a city, formed of glass, wood and concrete in rearing and overlapping fashion, a mad dash about enclosure.

All of these might just amount to a sophisticated bowl of cherries for architecture aficionados, except that this project was a baby of Bernard Arnault, the head of the luxury conglomerate that runs not only Louis Vuitton, the purser, but also bubbler Moët & Chandon, sipper Hennessy, dazzler Bulgari and fashionistas Dior, Fendi and Givenchy—all One-Percent darlings. These, of course, are not the only platinum brands but they’ll certainly do in an all-so-sizzling and svelte pinch.

You may now ask what has all this to do with our city.

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Architecture, Carter Uncut, Major Developments, Midtown, New Developments

new developments in NYC, buildings under de Blasio's plans, SL Green buildings, Buildings by Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Corridor, one vanderbilt,Kohn Pederson Fox, sl green

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing today on a proposal by S.L. Green to build a huge tower on the northwest corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and 42nd Street directly across from Grand Central Terminal. The proposal before the commission was an application for a “certificate of appropriateness” for a transfer of air rights from the former Bowery Savings Bank Building at 110 East 42nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.

The developers of S.L. Green made their moves by wooing Landmarks with renderings of Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed tower which would be 1,350 feet tall not counting a 100-foot-high spire—this is significantly higher than the Chrysler Building on the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street and higher than all the supertalls in construction or planned for 57th Street.

Reactions from the hearing this way

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