Nothwithstanding my admiration for my state’s scenic Palisades overlooking the Hudson River (where I sometimes hike), I think both the Metropolitan Museum and the World Monuments Fund have wrongly overreached in attempting to prevent LG Electronics from erecting a $300-million, eight-story corporate headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, less than three miles down the road from where I live.
The Met objects to this construction because it wants to protect the idyllic view from the Cloisters, its uptown branch for Medieval art. The WMF (whose poster is pictured above) wants to protect “one of the most unspoiled areas of the Hudson River.”
Because of the pending LG project, the WMF has included the Cloisters and the New Jersey Palisades on its 2014 Watch List of cultural heritage sites at risk, which was unveiled yesterday. (Other surprises on that list are the iconic St. Louis Arch, because of the “encroaching corrosion” that threatens it, and Venice, because of the “negative impact” of cruise-ship traffic on that city’s environment.) The preservationist organization (which I often support) is concerned that the LG project “will potentially set a precedent for more municipalities to build above the tree line.”
Here’s my photo of the site of the planned LG project (with the dark glass wall of the vacant existing corporate office building in the background):
And here’s a closer look at the low-slung building, formerly occupied by Citigroup, that LG intends to replace:
Sylvan Avenue, where the site is located, is the opposite of unspoiled. It’s a densely built commercial strip, lined with office buildings, shops, eateries, car dealerships and gas stations, not to mention LG’s current facilities and large corporate headquarters for CNBC and Unilever. Residential streets and the Palisades Parkway separate the un-sylvan Sylvan Avenue from Palisades Interstate Park—the majestic wooded cliff that concerns the preservationists.
Here’s LG’s rendering of the proposed project (with the planned new buildings in front). Unsurprisingly, this corporate image makes the 143-foot height of the project appear modest:
Here’s what its opponents suggest the project will look like from across the river (with some added graphic commentary):
LG is fighting back on its own website, which shows what it calls “an ACCURATE and honest portrayal of LG’s new HQ, as seen by the naked eye, from the The Cloisters museum on the New York side of the Hudson River. The actual building height in this rendering was verified by independent experts, Neoscape, which floated balloons to the exact height of the building, where it will be constructed—a quarter mile back from the Palisades.”
You can barely make out the nearly invisible building, on the right side of this rendering:
Just to make some mischief, here’s a photo of the Cloisters that I took while hiking earlier this year in Palisades Interstate Park, on the “wrong” side of the Hudson River.
Look how high the Met’s prominent building rises over the tree line!
As you can see, the museum’s facility seriously disrupts my view of Fort Tryon Park! That wooded refuge was developed as a park by preservation-minded John D. Rockefeller Jr., who also purchased the land for the New Jersey park where I was hiking in Bergen County when I snapped the above photo. Rockefeller was also a prime mover in the development of the Cloisters, which opened in 1938.
According to the history of the Cloisters on the Met’s website:
Rockefeller in 1933 donated some 700 additional acres of the Palisades’ plateau to preserve the view from The Cloisters.
I guess New Jerseyans’ view from the park across the river is deemed less important than the Met’s view of us. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that the Cloisters shouldn’t be there, only that the egregiousness of tree line transgressions is in the eyes of the beholder.
As reported by Robin Pogrebin in today’s NY Times, the LG project has been challenged in court, so far unsuccessfully. Pogrebin writes:
The New Jersey Superior Court ruled in favor of the township; it is being appealed. A second was filed against the community of Englewood Cliffs.
Bergen County’s legislators and Englewood Cliffs’ politicos (including Mayor Joseph Parisi Jr.) support the project for the boost it will give to the area’s economy. Four former New Jersey governors, however, jointly expressed their opposition. As far as I’ve been able to determine, current Gov. Chris Christie has not taken a public position on this dispute, although both sides have asked him to support them.
In the meantime, LG has already obtained a construction permit, posted in the upper lefthand corner at the entrance of the former Citigroup building on the site:
If all goes according to plan (and I suspect that it will), the new LG headquarters will be completed in 2017.