View Poll Results: Hotel Pennsylvania should be replaced with the proposed office building

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  • Yes

    76 44.97%
  • No

    93 55.03%
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Thread: Hotel Pennsylvania - by McKim Mead & White - to be replaced by 15 Penn Plaza

  1. #721



    November 15, 2007

    THE people at Community Board 5 want to land mark the Hotel Pennsylvania. They're joking, right? If only.

    The hulk on Seventh Avenue at 31st Street isn't architecturally distinguished or even meaningful - as anyone who suffers its oppressive presence can attest, it's one of the gloomiest structures between the Battery and The Bronx.

    But the site might house a new skyscraper home for Merrill Lynch - something the board plainly wants to prevent, even though its members are supposed to represent the community's best interests, and the project would obviously benefit the area around it.

    Last week, Board 5 voted 21-8 to recommend to the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission that the hotel be saved from demolition. Why landmark it? Because, they say, Glenn Miller's orchestra played there in the 1930s.

    If the Pennsylvania is worthy of immortalizing for that reason, then so is the lovely apartment building I call home - because Sammy Davis Jr.'s mother once lived there.

    The last-minute drive to save the hotel is flagrant anti-development obstructionism, under the thinnest possible mask of preservationism. It will likely go nowhere. A community board's role is merely advisory, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has (quite properly) shown no interest in "saving" the Pennsylvania.

    Even the knee-jerk activists who ordinarily rally to preserve anything larger than a lamppost haven't gone to bat for the hotel - a 22-story mausoleum that darkens the daily arrival of Penn Station commuters across the street.

    Even so, the hotel's owner, Vornado Realty Trust, is taking no chances. It has hired the powerful lobbying firm Patricia Lynch Associates to disarm any prospective political opposition to demolishing the hotel. Lynch has a close working relationship with both Gov. Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (who represents Downtown and doesn't want to see Merrill move north).

    Vornado bought the beat-up and obsolescent Pennsylvania in the late 1990s as a strategic building block in its ambition to redevelop the lower West 30s, where it owns several other properties. It's never been a secret that Vornado one day would replace it with a building more economically viable and worthy of today's Manhattan.

    Merrill has long been based downtown at the World Financial Center. But Vornado CEO Steven Roth recently came close to nailing down a deal to build the Wall Street firm a new headquarters at the hotel site in Midtown - until revelations of huge losses led to the ouster of Merrill CEO Stan O'Neal.

    Now the decision to move or not will be up to newly named chief executive John Thain. Will a company reeling from losses and writedowns yet to be fully tabulated opt for a costly, unnecessary relocation uptown?

    A Merrill departure might do little harm to Downtown, which is back on its feet and might no longer need to rely mainly on financial services companies to fill its office floors.

    But a new Merrill Lynch headquarters uptown would be a boon to the whole district - an obvious fact, and one that makes CB 5's position incomprehensible.

    It's not just the hotel that's a charmless, unsightly mess - so is the entire zone around it. Most buildings are antiquated, and many addresses are significantly underbuilt - capable of supporting much larger structures even without zoning changes or air-rights transfers.

    In a city starved for first-class new office space, what has kept this miserable Midtown South precinct from enjoying the modernization and investment that have transformed so much of Manhattan?

    Many things, including once-restrictive zoning, the miserable state of Penn Station and the Garden - and the depressing shadow of the Hotel Pennsylvania.

    Vornado and Related Cos. are partners in a proposal for a new Penn Station/Madison Square Garden complex nearby. But whether or not that goes ahead, the district urgently needs new investment.

    And the best hope for that would be to land a major commercial anchor - such as a Merrill Lynch tower. Yet, Board 5 prefers a blighted old hotel to a headquarters for one of the world's great financial institutions.

    Vornado and Merrill would need certain public approvals for air-rights transfers and zoning alterations. But such allowances are made for many other projects. And no eminent domain (forced relocation) is involved: No residents or businesses would need to be evicted, except for a handful of retail tenants who'd have several years to move.

    Manhattan community boards in recent years have largely shed their past reputation for mindless, anti-development activism. They've helped facilitate worthy projects needing public approvals and constructively persuaded developers to make their new buildings better, both for their occupants and their neighbors.

    But landmark the Hotel Pennsylvania? They've gotta be kidding. Let's hope CB 5's campaign doesn't augur a return to the bad old days.

  2. #722
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    East Midtown

    Default NY POST? please!

    What a crap article, from the city's lowest "news" rag. The editorials at NY Post are always 180 degrees wrong so I guess this indicates we really should landmark it.
    His use of words like 'shadow' and 'gloom' tell me how disingenuous this type of argument is. We've already discussed that dirt is removeable.
    Nothng new here, just a pedantic rehash of all the same unconvincing arguments we've already heard, the same ones that were used to justify other needless destruction in the past.

  3. #723


    Quote Originally Posted by MidtownGuy View Post
    Nothng new here, just a pedantic rehash of all the same unconvincing arguments we've already heard, the same ones that were used to justify other needless destruction in the past.
    Sounds eerily like what they said about Penn Station and 2 Columbus Circle.

  4. #724
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    A war tactic: demonize the enemy

  5. #725


    It's looking more and more likely that the Hotel Penn tower will not be built anytime soon. Hopefully, the hotel will be landmarked in the interim.

  6. #726

    Default spitzer looks like he will bribe Merrill to go to WTC 3 instead

    There is still hope for Hotel Penn apparently.

  7. #727


    It's not just the Penn. It's too many buildings which take us back to a classic NY era which are being razed.

    It's sensationally scandalous. And a tremendous loss for the city.

  8. #728


    Quote Originally Posted by MidtownGuy View Post
    His use of words like 'shadow' and 'gloom' tell me how disingenuous this type of argument is. We've already discussed that dirt is removeable.
    Nothng new here, just a pedantic rehash of all the same unconvincing arguments we've already heard, the same ones that were used to justify other needless destruction in the past.

    no matter how much you try to polish a pile.. it's still a pile
    Last edited by stache; November 21st, 2007 at 03:51 PM. Reason: language

  9. #729


    Then how did this pile....

    ....wind up looking like this?:

  10. #730
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    ^Wow. Hey, you just passed the number of posts I have.

  11. #731


    Time to call it quits?

  12. #732
    The Dude Abides
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    NYC - Financial District


    If you asked me a month ago whether Merrill would hold onto its plans to relocate to Hotel Penn, I would have said yes. Now, with Spitzer stepping in, I think it's more likely that they'll go to Tower 3 at the WTC. That said, I hope Vornado finds another anchor tenant and is able to move forward with its plan.

  13. #733


    I would like to see Merrill extend its lease with Brookfield at the WFC for a few years until Brookfield can complete the 1,300 s.f. tower at Hudson Yards. That would be awesome!

  14. #734


    Quote Originally Posted by londonlawyer View Post
    1,300 s.f. tower at Hudson Yards.

    I would quite like them to go to the World Trade also.

  15. #735


    Quote Originally Posted by alonzo-ny View Post
    Yes. The tallest Brookfield tower will be 1,300 feet if they're selected.

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