Planned Extell Skyscaper Faces Landmarks Test Over B.F. Goodrich Buildings
Eliot Brown Nov. 9, 2009, 1:10 p.m.
Extell Development’s skyscraper planned for 57th Street and Broadway will face a big test Tuesday, as the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is set to decide the fate of two connected buildings built by the B.F. Goodrich Company in 1909.
Just what that fate will be is unclear to many involved, a rare twist with a commission where decisions almost always seem predetermined.
Tuesday morning, the LPC is slated to vote on whether to landmark the two buildings, a move that Extell says would force it to scrap the giant mixed-use tower it has planned for the site. In recent months, the company has mounted an aggressive defense against the commission–which typically designates every building it votes to consider–enlisting unions and four powerful elected officials to push back at the designations. (Much more on this in a feature from a few weeks back.)
The result was a compromise to designate one of the two buildings–the main headquarters of B.F. Goodrich, located on Broadway–allowing it to destroy the other, located on 57th Street. Preservationists contend this is not enough, saying that if one of the buildings is landmark quality so is the other, and the commission should not bend to political pressure. Extell counters that landmarking both buildings would ruin its prime development site, and force the cancellation of what it says is a $1.5 billion tower.
Extell has told others involved in the discussions that the company believes the commission’s chair, Robert Tierney, is leaning in support of the compromise. [Clarified]. Preservationists involved in the process also claim they have some of the votes on the 11-member commission.
Should the commission landmark both buildings, Extell would still have another at bat as the City Council has the power to veto any landmark designation (though it’s incredibly rare for the Council to take such a vote). Giant skyscrapers don’t usually play well with the populist crowd, and Council members could easily be painted as ignoring preservation concerns at the request of a developer.