New breed of skinny sky­scrapers al­ters world’s most fa­mous skyline


Su­per tall, su­per skinny and su­per ex­pen­sive: a new gen­er­a­tion of New York sky­scrapers, some taller than the Em­pire State build­ing, are al­ter­ing the iconic skyline.

And it’s not just the ma­sonry that’s soar­ing to new heights. The prices have also gone strato­spheric: three apart­ments sold re­cently for more than US$100 mil­lion a piece.

Half a dozen build­ings are planned or un­der con­struc­tion in Cen­tral Park south, af­ford­ing views across the park. Oth­ers are con­cen­trated around Madi­son Square Park, or still far­ther south.

“There re­ally is a new type in sky­scraper history that is just be­gin­ning to ap­pear,” said Carol Wil­lis, his­to­rian, founder, di­rec­tor and cu­ra­tor of The Sky­scraper Mu­seum.

They “will pro­lif­er­ate in the next five to 10 years and re­ally change the char­ac­ter of the Man­hat­tan skyline,” she added.

The build­ings are be­tween 50 and 90 sto­ries high. Their ar­chi­tects are some­times in­ter­na­tional celebri­ties. Those who buy are multi- mil­lion­aires from across the world who con­sider a “tro­phy apart­ment” in the sky an in­vest­ment or chic pied a terre.

Many res­i­dents do not even live in New York full time.

0ne57 at 157 West 57th Street, known as Bil­lion­aires Row just south of Cen­tral Park, is one of the prime ex­am­ples.

Com­pleted in 2014, it stands at 306 me­ters (1,000 feet) tall, has 75 sto­ries and 92 apart­ments in the clouds.

It was fleet­ingly the high­est residential build­ing in New York un­til it was de­throned by the nearly fin­ished 432 Park, an ul­tra-thin cuboid of 104 apart­ments at 425 me­ters.

It is higher than the Em­pire State Build­ing, mi­nus its an­tenna — 380 me­ters with­out, 443 me­ters with.


is 217 West 57th Street pro­jected to rise to 457 me­ters and 111 West 57th Street, due for com­ple­tion in 2018, will be par­tic­u­larly slen­der at 435 me­ters, and at its widest, 18.28 me­ters by 24.38 me­ters.

Sev­eral other projects have al­ready been ap­proved around Cen­tral Park, ac­cord­ing to the Mu­nic­i­pal Art So­ci­ety of New York (MAS), the au­thor of a re­port called the Ac­ci­den­tal Skyline.

Views Have Val­ues

But it’s not as much the height, which has al­ways de­fined New York, but the del­i­cacy of the build­ings that is strik­ing.

This is ex­plained by the cost of land and New York zon­ing reg­u­la­tions, which since 1961 have re­stricted the square feet of land on which prop­erty can be built, but not how high.

De­vel­op­ers can buy “air rights” from neigh­bor­ing, smaller build­ings, al­low­ing them to build higher and af­ford their clients un­re­stricted views.

Panoramic views come with hefty price tags so air rights are in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive in a fre­netic New York real es­tate mar­ket.

“Views have val­ues, and that value is re­flected in the air rights in the sky,” says Wil­lis.

But these skinny tow­ers, made pos­si­ble by progress in tech­nol- ogy and build­ing ma­te­ri­als, in par­tic­u­lar on how to with­stand strong winds, don’t make ev­ery­one happy.

The first ones to be built have al­ready cast long shad­ows over Cen­tral Park, sports grounds, the zoo and a chil­dren’s carousel, ac­cord­ing to MAS.

“We be­lieve that public ac­cess to light, air and green space can­not be sac­ri­ficed,” it said in the re­port, which has stud­ied in minute de­tail the shad­ows ex­pected to be cast.

“Pro­tect­ing these qual­i­ties is crit­i­cal to the eco­nomic health of New York City and the well be­ing of New York­ers,” it said.

MAS says nearly all the sky­scrapers are built with­out proper public re­view, so there is no as­sess­ment of their im­pact.

The zon­ing reg­u­la­tions, dat­ing back 50 years, are out of date, she says and calls for a re-look at ur­ban plan­ning.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­lis, these ul­tra-slen­der tow­ers will re­main unique to New York given their eye wa­ter­ing cost.

“Un­til the mar­ket in New York was able to achieve US$ 3,000 per square foot for con­struc­tion, you didn’t have any of those tow­ers, be­cause the high price of con­struc­tion was not re­paid in the high selling price,” she said.


Peo­ple dressed in white have din­ner on Pier 26 along the Hud­son River dur­ing the Diner en Blanc event in New York, Tues­day, July 28.

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