Slow down super-tall construction

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“Beyond a shadow of a doubt” (Editorial, Aug. 24) belittles concerns shared by many civic organizations, community groups and individuals over the process that led to the construction of several super-tall towers in midtown.

The Municipal Art Society feels strongly that development must take into account context and local impacts, especially cumulative ones. And in a city like New York, new development should also contribute to improving infrastructure and public spaces.

We continue to call for a better balance between private profit and public benefit, and to insist on a more transparent planning process.

In the case of the 57th Street towers, that balance is completely out of alignment. The zoning permitted developers to accumulate air rights without anyone knowing. The designs received no public input and proceeded without any environmental review.

The public infrastructure upon which these towers will rely—the electrical grid, the public transportation system—is already overburdened. Further, the city has done nothing to ensure these developments will be integrated with the streetscape.

We were instrumental in creating the first zoning ordinance, not only in New York City, but in the country. Its purpose was to ensure a balance of uses, forms and functions as the city developed. But building technologies and the global market have catapulted many neighborhoods into places of rapid, extraordinary change, and we no longer have the right checks and balances in place.

The city needs to embrace and channel new development that strengthens neighborhoods and the city. Improved transparency, coupled with better mechanisms to ensure that development proceeds thoughtfully and anticipates impacts, will go a long way toward generating an intentional, rather than accidental, skyline.


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