by Michele S. Byers, executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Few places in America look just the same now as they did when European explorers first laid eyes on these shores hundreds of years ago.
The Palisades, a majestic 200 million year old stretch of rocky cliff above the Hudson River, is one of those rare places. The view of the Palisades awed Henry Hudson when he first sailed past Manhattan in 1609, and has inspired people ever since.
It’s no surprise, then, that momentum is building in an effort to protect the Palisades from an office tower that would burst through the tree line and spoil the unbroken panorama north of the George Washington Bridge.
LG Electronics USA, the South Korean electronics giant, proposes to build a 143-foot office building in Englewood Cliffs, where its American headquarters has been located for many years. The building would be four times higher than the local height ordinance allows!
If built as planned, the building would give LG employees and corporate visitors a dazzling view of the New York City skyline … while spoiling the Palisades vista for everyone else. (See attached photographic rendering.)
Public outcry against the LG building design has grown in the past few months, as four former New Jersey governors and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added their voices to those speaking out against it.
The EPA, which earlier backed the project because it would use “green” technology, withdrew its support because of building height. “This view is so important that the adverse impacts of construction of high-rise buildings cannot be condoned,” wrote EPA regional administrator Judith Enck.
In June, Governors Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean, James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman wrote a letter to LG’s vice chairman and CEO, asking him to reconsider the design and spare the view. “The Palisades have remained a landscape of unbroken, natural beauty in a heavily developed metropolitan area, appreciated by generations of residents and visitors,” they wrote.
The proposed LG building, the governors added, would rise far above the tree line, interrupting an historic vista and setting a precedent for taller buildings on the cliffs. The Palisades were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1983.
Three influential papers – the New York Times, the Star-Ledger and Bergen Record – wrote strong editorials urging a low-rise redesign. “Don’t spoil the Palisades,” implored the Times in its headline.
This isn’t the first time the Palisades have been threatened. More than a century ago, threats came from quarrying and advertising on the cliff face. In response, John D. Rockefeller Sr. and other iconic American families purchased and donated land to the newly-formed Palisades Interstate Park Commission.
Hopefully, LG Electronics will listen to these growing voices. The Palisades are a natural treasure, part of America’s history, and must remain unspoiled.
LG has a reputation as a good neighbor. In a 2012 sustainability report on LG’s website, the corporation’s executive vice president said it “strives to be an economically and socially responsible corporate citizen.” LG should show respect for this American landmark by redesigning its project as a low-rise that stays below the tree line.
To learn more about the efforts to save the Palisades, visit the Scenic Hudson website at www.scenichudson.org/news/article/scenic-hudson-pressures-lg-preserve-iconic-palisades-views/2013-01-30 and the Protect the Palisades Coalition website at www.protectthepalisades.org.
And for more information about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at email@example.com.
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