Manhattan’s Newest Skyscraper has Attracted a Cloud of Controversy

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Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
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It’s a $US95 million ($A102.8 million) view from the tallest residential tower in the Americas.

But the newest addition to Manhattan’s iconic skyline has attracted a cloud of controversy.

Still under construction and with US flags pinned patriotically to its shell, 432 Park Avenue soars above Midtown, casting a shadow over Central Park and designer boutiques on Madison Avenue.

At 425.5 meters, the tower by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly is higher than the 381m Empire State Building – but eclipsed by One World Trade Center, which rises to 541m including a 124m antenna.

The Los Angeles-based developers CIM Group have already sold the top penthouse for $US95 million and 50 per cent of the apartments, which start at $US17 million, before opening in 2015.

The view – marketed as a helicopter view – offers vistas that stretch from Central Park to the Atlantic Ocean and Connecticut.

And it’s not alone.

A string of super-tall, super-luxury buildings have sprung up and are still in development changing the city skyscape forever.

“They appeal to a very specific buyer pool and that buyer pool has proven to be very aggressive and very deep,” said Robert Knakal, one of New York’s top real estate brokers and chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services.

But not everyone’s happy.

A recent op-ed in the New York Observer complained about “hellish experience,” “dynamite blasts” and “incessant screeching” endured by residents and office workers from mega projects in development.

Opponents complain that city regulations provide no public review process in Midtown, that historic buildings are being demolished in their wake and that billionaires squeeze everyone else out.

“It’s very controversial,” said Alex Herrera, director of technical services at The New York Landmarks Conservancy.

“We have never seen anything like this before.”

The 1920s Drake Hotel, where Frank Sinatra, Muhammed Ali, Judy Garland and Jimi Hendrix stayed, was torn down to make way for 432 Park Avenue.

Herrera calls mega towers “ghost ships” – bought as investments by international billionaires, who visit only a couple of weeks a year and so tall that they cast shadows across Central Park.

In a few years, 432 Park Avenue will be eclipsed as work progresses on a taller tower being built by developers Extell round the corner on West 57th Street.

Extell has already built a 90-storey condo designed by famed French architect Christian de Portzamparc on the same street.

Master piano makers Steinway and Sons are leaving West 57th Street next year after selling their 1925 flagship showroom, where Rachmaninoff practiced, to JDS Development Group for $US46 million.

“It’s definitely changing our skyline and it’s certainly changing the character of 57th Street, which used to be a very quaint street of art galleries and piano stores,” said Herrera.

“Now, it’s a street of billionaires who don’t really live there.”

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