Fighting to Preserve the Magic of Lower Fifth Avenue

New development threatens views of the Empire State Building from the Flatiron Building.

Comments: 150

  1. Let them build. If the best counter argument is "...threatens views of the Empire State Building from the Flatiron Building" then all this is is "last one in lock the door" (and pick through until you find one trivial point and grab on with all your might). The Empire State Building blocked peoples views. The Flatiron Building blocked peoples views. The housing market in NYC has been interfered with for decades by well meaning but ill advised politicians and bureaucrats. Through rent control to inflexible but capricious zoning, look at the shortages, high rents, and corruption it has wrought. For gosh sakes, let the markets work!

  2. The housing market in NYC isn't suffering from lack of supertall buildings to house the wealthy who buy apartments as investments and visit a couple of times a year. If the Iron-Empire corridor were being transformed so as to build affordable housing, I'd be all for it. And I'm perfectly happy with investors investing in whatever strikes their fancy, so long as they can store their stuff in vaults and safe-deposit boxes. But let's talk about the supertalls we have now. On good days, the view from Central Park looks like a giant is in the process of constructing a huge old-fashioned clothesline. We already have the poles to support the line itself, and once the line is up, there'll be 40-story-high bedsheets out there flapping in the wind every Monday. On bad days, it's the beginning of those futuristic sci-fi movies where the hoi polloi huddle in concrete-and-rebar slums while the elite scoot about in flying cars. I used to wonder how the setting of Blade Runner (if I'm visualizing the right movie) would come to be. Now I'm starting to get the idea. These supertalls oppressively emphasize the disparity in wealth in NYC: the city is just fine with remaking itself so the superwealthy can make even more $$$. Has the countdown-to-the-revolution app been released yet?

  3. @TJ Really, "let the markets work"? Thank goodness that isn't the case in most of the West Village. People have fought to keep high rises from springing up on many of the beautiful streets in this area. It is miserable to constantly walk among super tall buildings - lack of sunlight and sky affect everyone, rich and poor.

  4. @TJ Where do the markets work? Can you name a place where letting the markets work has worked out for all a city's residents?

  5. Related trashed an iconic gateway view of the ESB from the NJ approach to the Lincoln Tunnel with its eyesore Hudson Yards. What was once an awe-inspiring View is now unremarkable as a result. KPF’s specialization in supertall construction is a feat of engineering over good taste and market demand - who will step in to preserve NYC’s built environment during this latest round of Design by Ego?

  6. Manhattan has become nothing , but an island of hotel rooms. No one really lives in these buildings, There is no sense of community because the owners are only there for a few nights and not living there. With all the empty storefronts, especially in the city, do we really need a mixed use building. Not like we get a tax benefit to justify all this.

  7. Also, 295 Fifth Ave, the TEXTILE BUILDING since 1928 which takes up the block between 30-31 st streets has been bought by developers who are going to put a bar on the roof and turn it into a "tech hub"! All of the textile companies ( towels, rugs, bedding window and table linens) who have been housed there for decades now have to move, denying them a central location that was convenient to buyers when they visit for the twice yearly Home Textile Market Weeks. For us in the textile industry it is a huge loss, and the end of an era.

  8. @Suzanne Bonser too bad. life moves on. things change. the textile industry as it was is no more. good thing there are new industries thriving...

  9. @Full Name Really? Like What? What’s a thriving industry occupying real estate besides residential luxury condos? WeWork? Um.....

  10. @Full Name Job's comforter.

  11. To say The Empire State Building and The Flatiron Building once blocked someone's view is inaccurate. Those buildings were beautiful, modern wonders and both instant NYC icons. There were the view. The landmarks today are being swiftly surrounded by ugly, non-descript glass towers that will one day completely block all the landmarks we loved including The Empire State Building. I was at Pier 17 recently and when I looked up at the skyline, I was alarmed to see The Wookworth Building all but blocked by a new glass building, not to mention all the buildings around 1 World Trade- you could barely see the top. Hudson Yards has destroyed the vista of entering the city from NJ having blocked the Empire State Building completely and even the new BOA building on East 42nd Street blocks the view of the Chrysler Bldg heading east. Our skyline was once beautiful. These glass towers add nothing and have also been responsible for the death of millions of birds who fly in to them. Some progress.

  12. @Dina B. The Woolworth building is ugly. I can see it from my apartment. Really look at it. It's mediocre gothic architecture. It looks like it's trying to look fancy. People commenting seem to hate glass and to love stone. Glass is supposed to fit a building into its surroundings by having it reflect its surroundings (the city around it). Fredric Jameson makes some interesting points about glass in 'Postmodernism.'

  13. @Anti-Marx Sorry Anti, you lost me at stating that this beautiful Cass-Gilbert landmark is ugly. Let's agree to disagree.

  14. It's up to New Yorkers to stay involved in how our city is shaped. Yes, big money is at stake, but it doesn't always prevail. For example, contact your city council member about the Demarest Building if you want it preserved. In addition, there's a bill sponsored by Linda Rosenthal and Robert Jackson at the state level that addresses the huge mechanical voids -- the loophole developers are using to create supertalls. Carefully research who is funding candidates and VOTE! Thank goodness that tool of the real estate industry, Bill de Blasio is out of office soon.

  15. Views of the Empire State Building have long been protected, but it appears that a new age of grand architecture is chipping away at this once important guideline. All things change over time, and I fear that 34th to 23rd will soon be the next corridor of mega development. Throughout history the city skyline and neighborhood usage has changed many, many times - we are simply ushering a new era of super structures into an old neighborhood. In Manhattan a view is only for the moment, and the lower 5th area is ripe for tall pickin. This is all very New York. Welcome to the future.

  16. It makes perfect sense that this area would be redeveloped to be much more dense. It has the best access to both major rail hubs (Penn and Grand Central) good subway access, proximity to the tunnels, and is right smack dab in the middle of Manhattan.

  17. Alas, any aesthetic falls dead in the lethal presence of New York greed and cupidity. The city was founded four centuries ago to make money for the distant Dutch investors and has nothing to do with culture, unless it's a means to capitalize for a few at the expense of the many...

  18. My problem with all the development is how darn unattractive it all is. An tall aluminum box? How luxurious*rolls eyes*. Go to cities like Berlin and Tel Aviv and the new architecture is inspiring--diverse materials, innovative design and scaled perfectly for the city. The mantra for NYC's developers seems to be "how high can we go? How many "luxury" units can we cram in?" And ultimately all it ends up being is more Sweetgreens, Bank of America ATM vestibules and Soul Cycles. Zero style or soul that will all get wiped away in another 25 years for a new round of greed. And don't we have a glut of empty luxury units on the market already?

  19. @Brooklyn Dog Geek The dirty little secret is that right now what is selling for megadollars is "homes" with views from every room. So tall and skinny so virtually all units are in corners. (Like what I have on a hilltop in Queens with views of most of these spikes so I shouldn't be judgemental but anyway.) The zoning code that allows for amassing air rights does not help at all. I am more concerned about how we are assessing real estate taxes on these pieds a terre. There should be higher rates for apartments that are not primary residences that is where owners do not pay NYC resident income taxes.

  20. @Brooklyn Dog Geek Lower Manhattan is full of independent businesses. Tons of independent restaurants and bars in TriBeCa and FiDi.

  21. As you walk through the streets of Manhattan look up, the sky is gradually disappearing; blocked by new mega skyscraper after new mega skyscraper.

  22. Great slide show! Clearly shows how beautiful our great city once was! These new super tall, narrow but otherwise featureless buildings are ugly as sin. They are devoid of any redeeming character. Once erected we will never be rid of these monstrosities.

  23. The architect of 262 Fifth, the future 1,000+ foot tall super skinny luxury apartment building, said in an email. “We have spent years refining our plans to create architecture that honors New York City’s proud history of skyscraper construction and contributes to the world’s most famous skyline.” Well, you failed miserably when it comes to the architecture of your building. The future structure is the opposite of distinctive design. It could fit anywhere. It certainly doesn't say Fifth Avenue. You should at least go back to the drawing board. Until then, hang your head in shame.

  24. Much of Manhattan has already “lost its soul” to chain retailers, exorbitant rents, and vacation apartment rentals. In this article, there is a sad irony that a Wendy’s occupies a part of the Demarest building and a Walgreen’s the Empire State Building (see photo). When all vestiges of genuine ethnic and economic diversity no longer remain, what is being preserved?

  25. I don't know that the Empire State Building was ever a paragon of ethnic diversity. Or that it was meant to be. Built in the Great Depression, it symbolized hope, faith in New York City, and -- if anything -- the idea that we are all New Yorkers. When I look at the Empire State Building or remember the World Trade Center, and remember seeing the twin towers get built too, or climb the stairs of the Metropolitan Museum, or visit Lincoln Center (which I also remember as a giant construction site), the last thing I think is that I am proud to be a Greek-American. Diversity is nice enough. It is not everything. And it can be counter-productive.

  26. Money grubbers also known as developers: Stop ruining New York City! The “development” of Lower Fifth Avenue is a horrible idea.

  27. I hate this. The city is practically unrecognizable from what it was when I grew up, which wasn't all that long ago. Also, filling every square inch of this city with luxury housing would be a lot more defensible, if anyone could actually accord to live in it. I guess it's more profitable to build a building, sell half the units to Chinese and Russian businessmen and leave the other half empty, than it is to build a building that actual New Yorkers can afford to live in.

  28. @Samuel I find the side streets to be thankfully, little changed, and it is there I find the real Manhattan, the interesting little businesses and offices and apartment buildings.

  29. @Samuel correct. So what's your point?Things change. Get used to it. There are very few neighborhoods of ANY kind in any state that are the same: NYC is no different.

  30. Agreed, Hudson Yards has completely ruined the awe-factor of entering Manhattan from NJ.

  31. The remaining 19th and early 20th century buildings in the “Iron-Empire Corridor,” Fifth Avenue from 23rd to 34th Streets, are evidence of a spectacular moment of civic pride and aesthetic extravagance in New York City. An historic district requires a “sense of place” which this streetscape maintains and we have sought to preserve at the street level as well as in the skies. It is precious evidence of one of the most important times in New York’s design and economic history, hence the magnificent building stock which smart developers are taking advantage of. George Calderaro Board Member, 29th Street Neighborhood Association Project Head, Save Tin Pan Alley

  32. Oh please, there are no magical views of Manhattan except from afar! Up close, Manhattan is a jumble of some handsome edifices tightly squeezed between acres of ugly, dingy office blocks and precariously-tall, boxy residential towers. London and Paris are better venues for displaying architectural achievements. Chongqing (population 50 million) is the ultimate blend of modern and ancient architecture spread over a fascinating topography. It's like San Francisco multiplied by 20, with far better urban transportation.

  33. The destruction of magnificent views of actual architecture by the whims of the super rich will be one of our mayor's few legacies. How disgusting. Where is the voice of the public in preserving New York from an out of control luxury condo-building city planning authority?

  34. Don't forget Mayor Mike when you complain. If memory serves, didn't the rezoning/construction frenzy start with him?

  35. @James Sounds like the 1980s and Mayor Koch, who relied on the real estate industry for support.

  36. The destruction of the Bancroft Building by developer Ziel Feldman (HFZ Capital) was a disgrace. Why wasn't this building listed? What was the urgency? The site has been vacant for years. City should expropriate the site owner.

  37. @Marc I am not a preservationist by any means but I agree, it was a shame to lose the Bancroft Building, not least because it could have easily been incorporated into the new development, and what’s replacing it is not that much larger and will surely be built with cheap cheap materials like all BIG projects are.

  38. If there wasn't demand for more buildings obviously it would mean this great city ain't so great anymore! It's an island, so if course the growth has to be vertical! Stop complaining!

  39. It's only a matter of time that there will be more and more buildings that are taller being built near Empire State Building, and it's only a matter of time that there will be one overly ambitious developer who wants to build their folly to be twice taller than all the supertalls around it. Then the market will collapse and you'll get that majestic New Empire State Building view for a hundred years.

  40. We are now living in a New York where there is no long view, either in our sight lines or in our urban planning. A forest of glass towers endlessly and narcissistically reflecting themselves, and us, blocking out the sun and sky. New York is filled with beautiful architecture—some very old and some new—but how will we enjoy it when it is blocked by the latest super tall for the super rich?

  41. Developers have never met a neighborhood they didn’t want exploit out of existence. It’s no different than open pit mining, or clear cutting a forest. They’re running rampant in New York and it’s destroying the city— hence the falling population, for the first time in the city’s history. Looking forward to the outraged responses from people disgusted that anyone would insult real estate developers.

  42. @Rensselaer That's very true and sad. But, big news, Inwood residents and community groups recently won their lawsuit against the city for the upzoning of their neighborhood -- upzoning sponsored by developers who'd bought properties in the area with the assurance of the upzoning as a done deal before it happened. The judge acknowledged that the proper environmental impact studies had not been done and blocked the new zoning. There will be appeals for sure, but the community has won so far. Don't give up! Get involved!

  43. @Rensselaer The people I know who are leaving New York are doing so because the rent is too high and the infrastructure hasn't been properly maintained. Aesthetics are a secondary concern because it's not like they're any better in some random Jersey suburb. Immigrants are also starting to get the memo that you don't need to go to NYC or California anymore to get a leg up when you're fresh off the boat and are going to places like Atlanta or Texas instead. It's really no wonder that growth is slowing down and people are leaving.

  44. @Rensselaer “hence the falling population, for the first time in the city’s history.” Not true. The city’s population declined by around 110,000 from 1950 to 1960 and it declined again by around 820,000 from 1970 to 1980. Manhattan’s population dropped every ten years from 1950 to 1980. See

  45. Wish them luck because the magic of so many other NYC neighborhoods has been consumed in the last 20 years, never to return.

  46. @Steve I live in TriBeCa. It's lovely here. I feel privileged to be here. I dimly remember seeing old TriBeCa in the movie 'After Hours.' It's better now.

  47. I think you need intensive Art and Architecture History lessons. Emergency lessons!

  48. @Anti-Marx Same with the FiDi.

  49. Not in my back yard!

  50. I remember when you could see straight down to the Empire State Building along Fifth Avenue from the Guggenheim Museum—it was magical. And then one day: poof! It was blocked by a new building. I couldn’t believe the city allowed that iconic sight to be erased.

  51. @Zanthe Taylor Where exactly were you standing for this dubious viewing?

  52. Mixed feelings: many of the great visually interesting buildings of the past will (literally) live in the shadows of these tall skinny featureless toothpick buildings. On the other hand, building reformation is inevitable in any place where real estate is more valuable than anything else. If one goes to more recently built dense urban cities, it is all giant skyscraper. Anything in Saudi Arabia, etc. NYC is essentially going in that direction.

  53. @K Henderson Yes, NYC is getting to look like San Gimignano, where the local medieval nobs built ever higher towers

  54. Years ago, When I lived in the old country (NJ) and commuted into the city,.. One of the views that was most exhilarating, while driving towards Manhattan on Rt 3, was as I drove up over a rise. there would suddenly be a spectacular view of the skyline. I'm sure many felt the breath taking wonder of seeing that amazing vista, Then, a large building was erected, 'just' big enough to block that view. To this day, Countless millions cannot have that precious happiness to greet their day to day, and make the traffic more bearable.

  55. @Getreal Here in the new world, Colorado, there is a similar rise in highway 36, leading into the Boulder valley from the Denver area. Here, the folks built a pull off and parking area. They designated it a Lookout.

  56. “This is New York City,” said Mr. Robins, the architectural historian. “We do two things really well: Build ever taller buildings and complain about them.” The problem is that the buildings that were built before were at least as equally beautiful, if not more so, than the ones they replaced. The ESB was and is an Art Deco wonder that replaced the beautiful Waldorf=Astoria hotel. The loss was painful, but what we won was eternally inspiring. What we have now is a regression. Beautiful historic buildings are demolished and something of lesser quality, craftsmanship, and design is built, not to mention of lesser use! And yes, of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but some informal statistics tell me that most people do not like the new "luxury" buildings and supertall towers with their bland, all-glass designs. Honestly - what happened to good architecture? Many of us wouldn't mind if a random, non-iconic older building were replaced with a modern skyscraper, if it actually showed good taste (and there are several examples of this occurring), but sadly this rarely happens.

  57. @James I think most people under 50 like the new buildings. I do. I have great admiration for Art Deco. I live in TriBeCa, and there's still a fair bit of Art Deco detail here, but I think the Woolworth Building is kind of ugly, and I love 8 Spruce St. I hate anything that looks old. I won't stay in hotels with Chippendale furniture. Most people under 50 don't like stuff that looks old. Mallarme talked about renewing the language of the tribe. To quote Skinny Pete, "church to that." People want to live in a city that feels vital and alive. Not a mausoleum. Kids don't like gargoyles and the like. Do kids still visit Europe? I absolutely believe that contemporary architecture can be made beautiful.

  58. @Anti-Marx I think the Apple/IPod generation finds older architecture to be too ornate. There's something ever modern about Art Deco, however.

  59. @James I don't know any architect who thinks the Empire State Building is beautiful. Iconic but no beauty.

  60. It would be interesting to see what our cities would look like if their real estate was not being used as a mechanism for laundering and concealing wealth from various legal and tax authorities worldwide. I wonder if we'll ever know. It's in their interest to have us believe it impossible to change this status quo, but I believe that's a lie, and the only thing propping up the current order is our own fear of our own power.

  61. @Dan Coleman So much talk by the feds, in the past, of stopping money laundering....and, now the whole U.S. real estate market from coast to coast, is the largest money laundering scam on the planet.

  62. My thoughts about the Flatiron and its relation to Fifth Avenue looking north are fed by a very priviledged personal experience. When I was an auditor at Arthur Young in the late 1970s and early 1980s one of my clients was Springer Verlag's US subsidiary. (Springer Verlag is a German publisher of scientific journals and books.) Their US offices were in the top two floors of the Flatiron. The conference room where I met with senior management was in the prow of the top floor looking north. As a reformed architecture major I found the view entrancing. Luckily the client execs liked my staring out their windows. They did it too. Wonder what that view would look like today.

  63. @carol goldstein the view is still Fantastic! MSPark area is thriving!

  64. @Full Name, Thank you.

  65. This is great news, actually. NYC is not a museum city. The reason this section of Fifth Avenue was preserved in amber for 60 years is because of NYC's mid-century decline, and the movement of commerce uptown. For decades this corridor was somewhat tired and past-its-prime. Now the Madison Square Park area is arguably the most desirable neighborhood in Manhattan, and development is booming. Fifth Ave. is a much better street when there is growth and architectural diversity. There's lots of development because almost nothing was built since the Great Depression.

  66. @Osito But there's plenty of ugly, forlorn architecture in many corners of the city that can be redeveloped. Why target a stretch of beautiful beaux arts and Georgian-style buildings, many rich in history, and then replace them with out-of-context glass boxes? That's what troubles me about developers and their defenders. Sure, NYC can accommodate change and fresh thinking but it shouldn't always come at the expense of its great old streetscapes.

  67. The Landmarks law came into being after the loss of REAL public landmarks, such as the original Penn Station. It was not meant to protect 5 story single lot commercial showrooms in prime locations. I live and work just blocks from this building and have never heard of it or noticed it. It is not truly culturally significant. The Empire State Building is culturally significant as is the Flatiron and Grand Central Station. Watering down the landmarks law to protect any small building looks nice could result in people forgetting why the law is actually there and make it easier for developers to campaign for killing it in the midst of our high-rent housing crisis.

  68. @Andy Do you maybe think that developers are building these ultra-expensive high rise buildings on 5th Avenue (and CPS, and anywhere else where property values are through the roof), in order to alleviate the housing crisis by providing affordable apartments for the proles? If so, you're sadly mistaken.

  69. @Andy Just because you've never noticed it, doesn't mean it's culturally insignificant.

  70. @Ignatius No, of course I don’t think that! However I do think the capitalists who control the real estate of the city will be able demonize the law effectively by pointing their fingers at LPC overreach and using rubbish Newspeak focus group tested terms similar to how Obama was blamed for “penalizing job creators” when he raised taxes on the top 1 percent to lower the annual budget deficit and led to a total wipeout of Progressives in all 3 branches of the federal government. To be more succinct: beware the unintended consequences of overreach!

  71. Lower Fifth Avenue in its heyday was the avenue of the super rich, before they moved further uptown into the 50's and 60's. The Astors and Vanderbilts had mansions as did many other rapacious, union-busting, monopolistic non-tax paying elite. It is a real irony that we are trying to preserve these buildings, a symbol of .1% materialism and prevent more modern, efficient and cost-effective, tax generating housing. I am not a big fan of much of modern architecture, but a building for 100 that is replaced with a building that houses 400 and generates more jobs and taxes is a good thing.

  72. @nydoc but the building for 100 is being replaced by a super tall building for 20 that most likely won’t live there year round.

  73. Only extremely entitled people have the gall to move to Manhattan and then complain about tall buildings. You can live literally anywhere else in America and at much lower cost if you would rather see the sky and horizon unobstructed. Manhattan is special because of its extreme built environment. However, the view of Empire State from Madison Square Park really is a treasure.

  74. Of course the many criticisms of development are valid. BUT. This is New York CITY. And the thing that makes New York New York is change. We adapt to it, and we adapt it. But in New York, the city that they named twice, we try to strike a balance.

  75. @Eugene New York City is NOT defined by change. It is constantly destroyed by change. The constant emphasis on newness, on trendiness, has destroyed or is destroying every vestige of culture for which the city is truly famous. The great cultural wealth of the past, the beauty of its architecutre and design are what make New York, not the presence of wealthy and super-wealthy residents and no-shows, the superficial trends like SoHo that spread across the country destroying many neighborhoods. You do not know New York at all.

  76. @Eugene Change for change sake is cheap is inane. Every generation creates gems of music, theater, art and yes, architecture. These gems are worth preserving. Lest we become surrounded by hundreds of shiny Trump Towers. Glittering, glitzy and thoroughly tawdry.

  77. @Eugene They named it once.

  78. Mayor will you wake up! Save the Merchant's House Museum on 4th Street. It is threatened with damage by a high rise going up beside it. DeBlasio has done nothing!! NOTHING!!!

  79. @David Yes he has. He has taken bribes (okay campaign contributions to pay his son's salary, etc...gotcha) from every real estate developer willing to hand it to him. DeBlasio is as corrupt has Trump and even less likable.

  80. The Merchant's House Museum is a gem. Its plasterwork and the personal items left by the Tredwell family are incomparable. Mr. de Blasio and his cronies are barbarians. But hey, museums don't make money for them, and, like Trump and his allies, they prefer an undereducated populace.

  81. I am reminded of when Fran Leibowitz was asked how New York City had changed over the past 25 years. Her response? "It's worse. It's 25 years worse."

  82. @MJWStyle Love Fran Leibowitz. She doesn't publish enough.

  83. Maybe Bloomberg can address this issue in one of his political ads. He fundamentally changed the city by allowing these multi-story monoliths to be built in every neighborhood. I had to move from my apartment due to NYU building 35 and 22 story buildings on Mercer Street between Bleecker and Houston Streets. Unfortunately, I think the city government is in a tight situation as our progressive mayor has promised unlimited benefits to its workers and citizenry and needs the tax money generated by these projects which diminish the quality of life for the rest of us.

  84. @Gary It was Bloomberg who sold out city residents to his developer friends.

  85. I like both old and modern architecture. There can be different philosophies like separating old and new, like in some European cities, or mixing like in New York. Both can produce beautiful and iconic results. My problem is with the skinny boxes growing like ugly mushrooms all over midtown. I very much like some modern buildings around Highline and downtown, but this disfiguring of midtown makes me sad.

  86. @Angelica , midtown is doomed. the historic districts around upper west and east sides were expanded about 10 or 15 years ago so those neighboroods are safe(r). but there was very little expansion in midtown. Unfortunately it makes sense, as billions are being spent on transportation infrastruture for midtown, so real estate needs to be upgraded there too. I do wish more attempts were made like the Hearst Building on 8t ave where the streetlevel part of the building is made to fit in the local, with someting modern and efficient (and cost effective) on top. Unfortunetly the poor energy efficiency of those glass tower is another story....

  87. It's all about the money. So sad that one day the city will look more like Dubai than the grand place I grew up loving. Someone do something, please.

  88. Horrendous. What has happened on 58th Street is repulsive. How can this continue?

  89. Why the building of unneeded (read dead prior NYTimes articles about corrupt money, often foreign and absent, buying up apartments in these towers) monoliths over community objections, tourism dollars, and historic preservation concerns continues? Not because of greed, merely. Because of greed unchecked by careless, weak, or corrupt public servants.

  90. The magic is being lost all over the city.

  91. Most or all of Lower Fifth Avenue should be landmarked. Architects like Vinoly are pirates and should be stopped from erecting their hideous edifices in the place of high-quality buildings that are irreplaceable.

  92. The A. T. Demarest Building is a striking architectural jewel. If the city allows that building to be destroyed we truly are at the end. What kind of person would do that? Just replace it with some bland tower and further turn NYC into Houston. Shame.

  93. The loss of The Demarest is tragic. I mean how could we, in 2020, destroy one of the glories of the 1890s on Fifth Avenue? That golden brick, the ornate carved stoned, glorious. But Fifth Avenue, and NY, have always been tearing down notable buildings to put up grander, taller, richer structures, for example, the Empire State Building in 1931 which replaced the Waldorf-Astoria. My era in New York was the 1980s and 1990s when Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 34th was a forgotten and sad ghost land. I had a friend who rented a $1,200 a month apartment on 30th and 5th with arched windows. It was a depressing place, a cheap location, and at night there were no people outside, and by day wholesalers occupied buildings. One cannot mourn the destruction of lower Fifth Avenue without thinking of how Mr. Trump destroyed the elegance of 56th and 5th when he demolished Bonwit Teller and erected a black glass tower with a pink marbled lobby like a gigantic urinal of grossness befitting the man and builder.

  94. @Harding Dawson There are many historic preservation zones all over the country and the US Sup Ct has found them to be enforceable so why haven't New Yorkers organised to get historic preservation zones enacted in your city ?

  95. @Molly there are plenty of historic preservation zones in NYC, but they do not cover the entire city and certainly not the central business districts especially in midtown. These districts tend to cover prewar residential neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village in Manhattan and Park Slope in Brooklyn.

  96. Having promised the Bonwit Teller friezes to the Metropolitan Museum, Mr. Trump sent in the demolition trucks to bash them in the night. His response: "They weren't much anyway." Such an event, and an attitude, would please Trump's supporters, of course.

  97. Since there's a lot of inevitability here, couldn't there at least be an effort to find better ways to blend in the new with the old? Many of the city's iconic buildings have interesting tops, with spires and shapes - why can't the new buildings do the same? Even toothpicks narrow to a point. But, of course, it's sad to see the world's most democratic city turned into a money laundering paradise for international sleazeballs. Citizen Jane, anyone?

  98. @DesertFlowerLV Democrats enact so many building regulations that it is way too expensive to have the beautiful architectural details of the past.

  99. The property developers own NYC. Anyone who disputes this is naive.

  100. The photographers who took the pictures in this article did an excellent job. It could not have been done better.

  101. Sadly the Landmarks Preservation Commission is appointed by the Mayor. And in this case a Mayor known for taking major campaign contributions from big real estate and their lobbyists. So the LPC's mandate is generally practiced on smaller brownstones that are not standing in the way of developers' goals to remake New York for outsized profits. The fact is that half the new mega tower condos for billionaires sit empty. The foreign oligarchs big real estate counted on to buy their overpriced properties have soured on them. The working and middle class are displaced. Homelessness has skyrocketed. The numbers leaving New York are at a high. City government thinks this is all sustainable. Until they know it's not when they have to bail out real estate's losses. If you vote in NY you must insist candidates take a pledge to take no more money from big real estate!

  102. Throw in the towel! After Penn Station's demise it was clear the appreciation for architecture as art was becoming a lost endeavor. New York's individuality- it's quirky European flavor- is done for. NYC is now a generic 3rd world metropolis - complete with its lack of air/light, garbage/decay, rodents/trash, dangerous drivers/cyclists & stressed out dwellers unaware of their surroundings. Urban planning & the behaviour of its residents is killing their livability. LIC's growth reminds me of Seattle & Holl's hideous, non-functional $45 million blunder embarrassing proof of the death of good design. Nothing stays the same: constant change is mandatory. I lament for the New York of my childhood, replete with neighborhoods relaying ethnic vibes & small shops catering to the pedestrian in scale and quality. But I know it cannot be resurrected. But what I hope for is good design that embraces the necessary change. I like conceptually what Foster did to preserve the old structure under the Hearst tower. Architecture is now about engineering & profit not about design & vision or even consideration of the user. Melding old & new needs to be the new required mantra. And preserving the city so that middle class folks can raise a family. If not, crime will rise, grime will rise & there will be no reason to go outdoors when staying home will provide all the virtual reality you will ever need and want. Screen time has tuned them out to the sensory delights of a functioning city.

  103. Ive been curious if building like the Demarest were demolished, if it could be done cafefully enough to save in whole on in part and put it somewhere else. Maybe even a new city like Denver. It could even be stored at one of those desert lots like the old airplanes until a proper spot is available. it would be interesting to go to another place and see 'old new york'. but I suspect the time delays in deconstruction, shipping and storage costs would be too high. otherwise the realestate people would already be doing it.

  104. Everyone here saying the city is being ruined by redevelopment needs to consider that the empire State building this sightlines captures was viewed as an abomination and against the spirit of the city by many when it was built. Cities are constantly in flux and the preservation of empty space in one of the world's most expensive cities will seem downright frivolous in hindsight. Focus on making the future worthwhile, not preserving the past at all costs.

  105. @Daniel Should Buckingham Palace and the Taj Mahal be torn down because they are old? Should I burn my old paintings some of which are by artists whose work is in major museums?

  106. @Molly, The buildings you mention are iconic and universally beloved. The Demarest, while admired by some, is unknown by most and does not reach such a standard.

  107. In light of the looming and disastrous climate crisis, looking at carbon emissions, this way of building is unsustainable, irresponsible and unethical. We must phase out steel and concrete and move to more carbon neutral methods and materials such as mass timber. Why does the article not even mention this? From a fellow reader: "Let the markets work?" This is ignorant, and it is dangerous. The construction industry needs to enter our contemporary reality, and not be stuck in the ego driven misogyny of the architect's "master work". We need to think about architecture not as a series of individual object events but as a system that affects the City as a whole and all of us, in numerous significant ways.

  108. @DZ I can not conceive of New York City buildings constructed of "mass timber" for any number of reasons. It would decimate forests. It would only last a short time. The first fire would burn the building to the ground, and as the fire caught to adjacent buildings, the entire city would burn.

  109. @DZ We do need to stop demolishing the buildings and promote adaptive reuse. (Disagree w/wood framing in the city). Madison Square is successful in large part because surrounding buildings include low rises that allow light and air. European examples of antique buildings updated with the most modern elements and done well, serve users and visitors much better. Developers need incentives and restrictions to adapt not demolish. The Landmarks Commission made a mistake by not protecting what was left of the Demarest Building.

  110. We are NOT building skyscrapers out of timber for about a million different valid reasons. That would be complete madness! Tall, dense buildings are incredibly efficient. Suburbs of two story plywood mcmansions are the real scourge.

  111. There goes the magic that made New York City such a wonder. It has now been years since an iconic view of the Empire State Building disappeared from Astor Place with the building of the ho-hum Zeckendorf Towers on Union Square. The visual link from the mid 1800's of Cooper Union to the wonder of the Empire State Building of the 1930's vanished to diminish all New Yorkers forever. The same can be said of the magical view down Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art when that view of the Empire State Building was blocked by the nondescript tower around 54th Street. Keep it up New York and the magic will soon be gone, swallowed by greed. Our parks shadowed by towers where no one lives.

  112. @Colbert more greedy is the old, privileged New Yorker trying to keep the city Great Again. His place to live unquestioned because of buying before the real estate boom, or because he was grandfathered into an old, affordable rental agreement. What unknown ”magic” era are you trying to preserve this time? Bloomberg’s New York? Dinkins’? La Guardia’s? You forget that New York City loses nearly a thousand people a week because the price of rent is more that its residents can pay. Let me repeat that- for many, there is nowhere to live. Let’s not forget that what really makes New York what it is, is its long-held spirit of change. This is the city that let in nearly 20,000 immigrants a day at the turn of the 20th century, half of whom ended up staying here in the city. This building is not affordable housing, but that luxury housing will create living spaces for the wealthy who would otherwise continue their expansion into disappearing Harlem, Bronx, and Brooklyn. The road to affordable housing starts with housing, and behind water it is the resource New Yorkers need most.

  113. Those old immigrants lived with their relatives or took in relatives. What affordable housing? My father's family had a boarder in their series of out-of-the-way apartments, and my mother's family kept an uncle or two. While I too am nostalgic for the New York City I grew up in -- no loud radios, no litter, no graffiti; when we left our apartment doors open to catch cross-breezes from other people's apartments; when we heard police sirens never and fire engines very infrequently -- I am under no illusion that poor immigrants like my grandparents, who lacked subsidies of any sort, didn't have to triple up.

  114. So many of the qualities that made the physical parts of a city alluring are the result of good city planning. Sight lines are a crucial example. A smaller scale version being the many small parks installed at intersections - like Sheridan Square and Christopher Park. Lately as Planning professionals have been replaced by advocacy apparatchiks on a mission, cities have suffered more than any time since the upheavals of the 50’s and 60’s. The art and science of good planning (open space, flow, light, wind-tunnel abatement, trees, setbacks, height restrictions) have given way to a “coalition of dunces” (play on the book title intended) where onboarding a few interest groups behind a development scheme that benefits the few (Creative Space! Pop-ups! Bike Parking! Public “Art!”) results in a city emptied of visual grandeur and joy - anything outside the frame of a selfie is fair game for a swallowing developmental desecration.

  115. @Mia Brilliant statement! I couldn't agree more. Here in New York it is exactly as you describe. I wish we could all get together and fight this pre-meditated blight and cultural and historic cleansing of our great cities.

  116. @Mia of course the San Franciscan decries any instance of building anywhere- for what reason? Sight lines one day, Feng shui the next, a painted lady here, a crumbling tenderloin hotel the next, and a halted plan for the Muni to reach the Inner and Outer Richmond. All of these policies which San Francisco is famous for have almost singlehandedly caused the homeless crisis in SF, as developers who would have gladly built more residential space to meet demand as the city’s population expanded over the last three decades have been blocked by zoning restrictions, restrictive tenant laws, beautification rules, and NIMBY policies you seem to be suggesting here for a coast that is not your own. I’m sure when the dense apartment buildings of SF’s Chinatown went up a century ago, they were similarly insulted, called soulless, and blamed for the ruining of the city. And yet they allowed and still allow thousands of poor Chinese a place to live. Until the last homeless person is off the street and rental rates have dropped to their pre-Boom levels again, the time for preservation is over. There should be a supertall structure on every block.

  117. Inevitable that NYC should transform into a largely ahistorical place, just like most of the US with its endless office parks, suburbia, strip malls, and glass and steel offices. Time is money and real estate development can't grind to a halt if an older building is already present (especially one that was commercially though elegantly designed in the first place).

  118. @LR well said. I always tell my European friends and family to not waste their time and money going anywhere outside of NY, Boston and maybe Chicago. Everything else is simply ugly.

  119. "Everything else is simply ugly." I don't even know what this means.

  120. People conveniently forget that not very long ago Madison Square was deserted and unkempt, the iron corridor filled with junky stores, the hotels - all 100 years old - crumbling and filled with indigents. The nearby insurance companies were contracting, as computers replaced floors and floors of clerks and typists. Then real estate interests noticed and exploited diamonds in the rough. Welcome to gentrification. I’m sorry if your unobstructed views are compromised, but over all things are significantly better.

  121. @GC ..."significantly better" except for the clerks and typists who lost their jobs.

  122. @GC Yes much better for the oligarchs and hedge fund managers not so much for the real people that make up NYC.

  123. @GC "Junky stores", I think not. Mom and Pop businesses in mostly the novelty trade. Diversity. That is what makes the mosaic of New York so vibrant and interesting.

  124. We do need to stop demolishing buildings and promote adaptive reuse. Madison Square is successful in large part because surrounding buildings include low rises that allow light and air. European examples of antique buildings updated with the most modern elements and done well, serve users and visitors much better. Developers need incentives and restrictions to adapt, not demolish. The Landmarks Commission made a mistake by not protecting what was left of the Demarest Building.

  125. That’s a bit ironic considering that 2 of the most iconic buildings on Madison Square - the Flatiron Building and the MetLife clock tower were both the tallest buildings in the world when they were built. The building at 11 Madison was also to be the tallest in the world when it was commissioned by MetLife before the Depression when it was shaved from 100 stories down to 28, but with bones that could still support a supertall tower to be built on top of the existing building and indeed someday probably will.

  126. The new ugly architecture may be a self limiting problem if it cause too many people to leave the city

  127. Should Mr. Pi be allowed to tear down the building and build his new condo tower, he will be rewarded by entering the slowest condo market since the great recession with nearly half of those recently built, empty and unsold. It will be poetic justice and karma rolled into one. It is a shame if the teardown happens but we see it all the time.

  128. I am taken back to the day I spent viewing Gormley's Event Horizon. It was the last thing I did in NYC prior to moving north to VT and it was a lovely late spring day.

  129. I spend a lot of time in Paris, where I am now. Part of what I really enjoy about Paris versus New York is that Paris has, since the city was razed by Baron Haussmann and rebuilt with a grand plan, fiercely protected its heritage. Some Parisians I know complain because the restrictions are tight, but I think it is smart. You can walk down any Parisian street and the facades look much like they did in the famous paintings over a century ago by Utrillo, Sisley, Pissarro, etc. You also always get a view of the sky here too, which I really only see in midtown (and increasingly downtown) if I look literally straight up. You get far more cafes here on the sidewalks because the scale of development is small here and everybody here has their morning, afternoon, and evening favorites because different ones catch the sun at different times of day. NYC, to me, looks pretty from a distance (the skyline), but it is quite far from pretty walking down almost any street in Manhattan. Paris doesn't look as impressive from a distance, but up close it is an intimate, personal and beautiful city. That's why I prefer it.

  130. @Thomas, The City of Paris, long ago, passed regulations that buildings could not surpass the Eiffel tower in height. Thus, Paris has spread out laterally. Property in Paris, I imagine, has relatively little vertical value (air rights). NYC has nowhere to go but skyward. The air rights are extraordinarily valuable and will be optimized.

  131. I don't blame developers. This is what they do i.e. develop. I blame each Manhattanite for not becoming involved. I blame the New York time for writing an article and giving no info to its readers as to how they can contact organizations that are working against this lightening place of change with 1000 foot Billionaires Row apartment buildings, occupied (or not) by foreign investors seeking to protect a piece of what they have accumulated in less secure nations, not at all caring that they are blocking the beautiful view of midtown from Central Park and stealing the view of Central Park itself from others.. It is said that New York belongs to the world but it is time that New Yorkers take back control from the rapacious politicians seeking donations from the Developers who will naturally develop when permitted and (let's not be shy) the construction unions which have been a powerful force for indiscriminate development. Please publish the names of organizations fighting this where we can donate and work for this cause

  132. I hope they win the fight. So many neighborhoods have been ruined by these modern monster bldgs.

  133. all the new buildings are just plain obscene and ugly - what is happening to the greatest city in history is the greatest travesty in history - one word can sum it up GREED

  134. Once upon a time the flat iron building was the world's tallest building. Things change

  135. How about a huge tax on foreign owners who don’t live here full time?

  136. So many people take pride that they live in New York City but any city that just lets lovely buildings be destroyed so 1,0000 ft bland towers can be built to serve the wants of the 1 % is not a great city but a craven city. Did you learn nothing from the destruction of Pennsylvania Station ?

  137. I loved Penn Station. The Demarest is no Penn Station.

  138. First, already at least a dozen iconic views of the ESB that’ve been lost... Including this one: Second, with all due respect to all the commissions and committees interested in preserving NYC… The explosive proliferation of near-permanent scaffolding on the streets of Gotham puts you in danger of becoming the foil to that mess, the way PG&E is now irrevocably and forever foil to the mess that passes for an electricity distribution grid in California… There is a way out, of course… Some scaffolding has been in place long enough – could be designated as landmark, and preserved appropriately… And imagine a NYC-based Museum of Scaffolding – ensconced in a new-wing paid for by the clean money of a non-tawdry billionaire… Encircled by a permanent outdoor exhibition of faux-temporary floorboard-topped pipework passageways… Though some of the larger exhibition areas at the Met or Natural History could serve, as well… PS Once this genre rises 100X in value, we could auction some off every couple of months, to the most-endowed museums elsewhere on the globe…

  139. It seems to me that if the city actually cared about the quality of the views, it would start by removing the piles of trash that line the streets and the many thousands multi-ton hunks of metal that people leave next to the curb.

  140. You know what would be cool? Really? If some enterprising someone with big bucks and a brain would shave, maybe, 400 feet off his-or her new architectural baby and put up something bracing, something daring, and beautiful. Not, you now, 1986 Centra vs 1989 Centra beautiful (Oh my God, that hulking rubber bumper is just...eesch!!!), not necessarily tennis-ball-tube vs. stolid glass block...something useful, stylish, epic in a NEW YORK BUILDING sort of way. We're such a gray, safe, derivative architectural country, even the pseudo-historical fake streets of Chinese Paris are exciting by comparison.

  141. So funny for new developments are purchased by shell companies or LLC’s where many of the foreign purchases were in effect part of dictatorships which murdered and tortured their own citizens . At the end of World War 2 the fight against allowing foreign entities which were are enemies in the past purchase real estate in NYC was an issue. Now they are welcomed .

  142. All this construction is one upmanship among a small group of inbred developers, with the rest of us as collateral damage, if that. There's no rhyme or reason to monstrosities like One Manhattan Square, which are sitting empty or 262 Fifth Avenue. Who is supposed to occupy all this real estate? The game among these goniffs is to see who can extract the most concessions from the city; who can buy the most politicians; and who can create the greatest eyesore. If you think these guys don't get together and brag about their "triumphs" you're kidding yourself. In private, they're as completely besmitten with themselves as Trump is in public. The real tragedy is that these developers never suffer any penalty when things go south. A the Times expose on the Trump family's real estate chicanery demonstrated, having written the laws themselves, it's almost impossible for anyone to lose money in NYC real estate. There's always a way to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, be it through write-off's, depreciation, exchanges, or outright fraud.

  143. I’ll try to keep it simple and easily understood. Super tall ‘PENCIL’ buildings are the epitome of greed!

  144. The ESB is overrated and has had its century of spotlight. Time to move on and build up. I hate all these bad-faith arguments against development. The truth is that NIMBYS are exactly the same as the alt-right who lock up children in cages. Keep everybody else out; more for me.

  145. View schmew! Money makes the world go round. John Kander, Fred Ebb

  146. I don't get why sellers still haven't figured out that putting a range hood in the kitchen (instead of a microwave) will help sell the house much faster. I don't care how nice the house is, as soon as I don't see a range hood in the kitchen I will take a pass on it and continue to do so even if after there is a reduction in the asking price later.

  147. I don't have a range hood. Range hoods are hard to keep clean. No one had 'em when I was a kid until maybe the 1970s, when they became the range, and stank up everyone's kitchen. Now, if it vents outdoors, that's another thing.

  148. For the first 5 years I worked in Manhattan every day I walked from Penn Station to our office on Park Ave South via 28th, 29th or 30th streets. I loved to look at the old architecture and I’m saddened to read that various buildings that I say multiple times per week are gone, soon to be replaced by soulless “pencilscrapsrs”.

  149. The once beautiful skyline of NYC is being transformed in my generation, and not for the better. How is it that a renovation of a four story brownstone in Brooklyn can be so under the microscope of Landmarks and DOB for details as minute as mortar joint color, and yet, sliver buildings (i.e. tax shelters) for the outlandishly super rich are permitted on their watch to cut through the once beautiful skyline one by one, and are more often than not, vacant. It is truly heartbreaking to see the City caving at every turn to money rather than the principles of what has made our city great. The principles espoused by Jane Jacobs are so far in the rear view mirror at this point it's hard to even remember what they were. Please stop ruining this city.

  150. It is hard to argue against landowner rights. I am all for landmark preservation if the building in question has a longstanding pedigree but not for reasons of protecting one's view, be it river or other vista. The protests here are clearly self serving as this building, imho, does not reach the standard of landmark preservation.