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MoMA Monster Update: City Planning Downsizes Nouvel’s Tower (but it’s still too tall)

Planned MoMA/Hines tower’s neighbors, as seen from E. 54th Street: Museum Tower, left, Financial Times Building, right. (MoMA in the middle.)

What was expected to happen has, in fact, now happened: The NY City Planning Commission this morning voted in favor of the MoMA/Hines tower designed by Jean Nouvel, with one major modification: Designs must be resubmitted to comply with the commission’s stipulation that the height of the tower be reduced by 200 feet, to 1,050 feet

That would still make the MoMA Monster more than twice the height of the tallest building now on its E. 54th St. block—Emery Roth & Sons’ Financial Times building, a mere 496 feet high (41 stories), compared to the 1,250 feet and 85 stories in the plan submitted by MoMA/Hines, now subject to modification. The FT building, on the corner, fronts on Avenue of the Americas, where highrise office towers are commonplace. The MoMA/Hines building would be a very tall mid-block stalagmite on E. 54th St.—a block that had been low-rise in character until a MoMA-related luxury apartment project, Museum Tower, was erected to help provide funds for the museum’s 1984 Cesar Pelli expansion.

The proposed tower’s postage-stamp lot (which extends from E. 53rd to E. 54th St.) is difficult to photograph, because it’s now shielded by black-covered fencing. I stuck my camera through a gap in the fence on 54th St., and got this:


And here’s the view from across the street on 54th:


The black building building adjacent to MoMA, to the left rear of the empty lot, is the American Folk Art Museum, which agreed to sell air rights to help enable the MoMA/Hines tower to soar to excess heights. Also agreeing to sell air rights for the project were two nearby landmarks—the University Club and St. Thomas Church. It now appears that at least some of those air rights won’t be needed after all.

And this just in—MoMA has now released the following statement, suggesting that the developers and architect will go ahead with the project, as modified:

The Museum of Modern Art appreciates the City Planning Commission’s diligent review of the 53 West 53rd Street proposal and is pleased that the public review process is moving forward. While we had hoped that the Commission would approve the Jean Nouvel design as originally proposed, we are confident that the process will yield a project that contributes greatly to the architectural heritage and economy of the city.

The project next goes to the City Council for consideration, with a vote expected next month.

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