New Development

The Rising Costs of Billionaires’ Row

Supertall luxury towers like 432 Park and One57 may be rising as if they’re best thing since sliced bread, but many are very unhappy with them.

For one, as these towers rise taller and thinner, they cast long, thin shadows, especially during the afternoon. Many of these towers are on 57th Street, so they block the sun from the Central Park.

This is not the first time there has been worry about development around the Park. In fact, in the 1980s, Jackie Onassis led a demonstration in protest of the Time Warner Center, afraid it would blot out the sun over a large swath of the Park. (Side note: Jackie actually lived on Fifth Avenue, overlooking the Park.)

Jackie O's Apartment

Jackie O’s Apartment. Classy, we knew it. 

One57, in particular, though designed by the renowned and Pritzker-winning Christian de Portzamparc, has attracted criticism. Justin Davidson, of NYMag, in addition to panning the building’s clunkiness, noted “[T]he skyline is filling up with sparsely populated habitats for oligarchs who, if they live there at all, roam across their parquet tundra, hollering for their mates.”

What’s particularly interesting, however, is that these buildings aren’t without architectural significance. They can’t be dismissed entirely.

In fact, they’re bringing about technological innovation. For example, 432 Park Avenue, designed by Rafael Viñoly contains two tuned-mass dampers at its top to prevent swaying. Some of these buildings are even integrating infrastructure for cell service into their designs, and most of them are designed by top architects. As they should be, to command nine-figure prices.

Tuned mass damper, like a counterweight, in Taipei 1101

Tuned mass damper, like a counterweight, in Taipei 1101

The trend of superluxury condos doesn’t just stop a few blocks from the Park, though, it’s extended to TriBeCa, Chelsea, and, well, everywhere else. Starchitect and Dame Zaha Hadid is even designing a building along the High Line.

520 W 28 Street, by Zaha Hadid

520 W 28 Street by Zaha Hadid

These smaller-scale towers aren’t the offenders, though. Those by the Park are the ones that block out light, have led to construction near-disasters, don’t provide enough affordable housing, use non-union labor, and frankly, are viewed as playgrounds for the uberwealthy. 

While some of these problems could find a compromise, it seems the shadows over the Park are here to stay. Existing buildings won’t be lowered, and many are approved for even taller heights. Central Park is, unfortunately, getting a little darker.

Obviously, this isn’t ideal, but these towers offer interesting architecture and technology. The greater issue, in my mind, is the demolition of older buildings to make way for new ones.

Just last year, the historic Rizzoli’s bookstore, on 57th between 5th and 6th, was demolished to make way for condos.


The beautiful and now-destroyed Rizzoli’s

A similar tragedy, the original Penn Station, an architectural masterpiece, was demolished, and Grand Central almost was as well.

The new will come, and maybe not on everyone’s terms. The mistake is thinking the old has to go.

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