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City Council Approves New Midtown Skyscraper

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The City Council approved plans for a new skyscraper across from Pennsylvania Station by a 47-1 vote Wednesday, after it passed two subcommittees earlier in the morning.

The council's subcommittees on Zoning and Franchises and Land Use also approved the proposal for the development of 15 Penn Plaza, which would occupy the current site of the Hotel Pennsylvania.

City Council members agreed with the developer, Vornado Realty Trust, that the new skyscraper would bring much-needed office space to Midtown and create jobs.

"Now the Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings in the City of New York, a building that is in some ways synonymous with the City of New York, and it is an important icon in our skyline. But our skyline is always changing and growing. New York City is not a stagnant city," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

"This project is really about New York of the future. The fact that this huge office building will be coming into New York City, a state-of-the-art, modern office building, is a huge benefit for New York," said Queens Councilman Mark Weprin.

"While preservationists want to speak in regards to a visual corridor of another building, which many during that generation would have probably opposed for the same reasons, we saw what that ultimately meant for this city in now having the Empire State Building," said Staten Island Councilman Vincent Ignizio. "So, too, will this building come and we hope the jobs with it."

But the owner of the Empire State Building says the project would obstruct the views of the iconic skyscraper, and has released his own renderings, pictured right, to back up his complaints. The 67-story tower would be 1,190 feet tall, only 60 feet lower than the Empire State Building.

Anthony Malkin, the president of Malkin Holdings, which owns the Empire State Building, said in a statement, "We advocated amendment. We are pro-development and think this area represents a great opportunity for development. The City Council is the decision maker on this subject. They have gone out of their way to listen to our position. In the end, they are the elected representatives of the City of New York, and it was up to them to decide."

City Councilman Charles Barron was the only member to vote against the project Wednesday, because he does not believe that Vornado will do enough to employ minorities.

"Vote it down," he said. "This is a project for the rich. This is a project that excludes us. These goals here are bogus."

In a statement, a spokesman for Vornado Realty Trust said, "We look forward to working with the Council to implement strong minority and women participation in the development and construction of 15 Penn Plaza."

The company has also promised to put $150 million into transportation infrastructure in the area, including new subway entrances and underground passages.

On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the project.

"Anybody that builds a building in New York City changes its skyline,” said the mayor. “We don’t need to run around to every other owner and apologize. This is something that‘s great for the city, and you know, competition's a wonderful thing. One guy owns a tall building and wants it to be the only tall building, well sorry, that’s not the real world."

New Yorkers said they also support a change in the skyline.

"It would add to it," said one New Yorker.

"I like the tall buildings and all the lights," said another. "That's why people come to New York, right? It's the lights that attract."

"It's New York, there are buildings all over the place," added a third.

There is currently no timeline for demolishing the Hotel Pennsylvania, and 15 Penn Plaza developers say they are still looking for tenants.

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