Supersizing Manhattan: New Yorkers rage against the dying of the light

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New York’s Empire State Building casts an unmistakable shadow over midtown Manhattan
New York’s Empire State Building casts an unmistakable shadow over midtown Manhattan / © Stan Honda/AFP

On his terrace overlooking Central Park, a friend who is a wealthy tutoring entrepreneur is pointing. “The Nordstrom Tower – we think that’s going to be the one,” he says, indicating the site at 225 West 57th Street, where a condo tower is rising to a height of 1770 feet. He means the one that will finally block his view of the Empire State Building, the most famous skyscraper in the world.

It’s hard to feel sorry for a millionaire losing a bauble in a jewelled necklace of lights. But all New Yorkers are losing familiar vistas, and some are losing light and air, as supertall buildings sprout like beanstalks in midtown Manhattan. There are a dozen such “supertalls” – buildings of 1,000 feet or higher – in the construction or planning stages. And the buildings are not, as in Dubai or Shanghai’s Pudong district, being constructed where nothing else had stood. They are, instead, crowding into already dense neighbourhoods where light and air are at a premium, and quality-of-life issues are on the minds of everyone except, perhaps, the billionaires buying the cloud-hung condos as investment properties.

The construction of towers surrounding the Empire State Building is just one part of the problem. For 85 years, the Empire State has been a symbol of the city – New York’s incomparable logo – and a wayfinding device par excellence. ….