The Real Deal New York

NYT critic gets heat for touting more public review for towers

December 26, 2013 02:02PM

If city agencies and community groups were granted more authority on air rights transfers for all new skyscrapers, it would unnecessarily add more hurdles to the approvals process, writes Reuters finance journalist Felix Salmon.

Salmon’s column was directed at New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman and other writers who advocated limiting the role of private builders and expanding the public review component in the construction of tall buildings in New York City.

“Skyscrapers are a perfect emblem of capitalism — they destroy what came before, in order to create something new,” Salmon wrote. “Sometimes the change is for the better, and sometimes it’s for the worse — but a city where nothing new gets built is a dead city, which might have nostalgic value to tourists, but which is never going to be a driver of global commerce.”

Air rights acquisitions that are carried out through a zoning lot merger are currently not subject to public scrutiny.

Kimmelman also backed a requirement that developers “give something back” in exchange for permission to buy these air rights, such as affordable housing and contributions to transit improvements. He pointed to One57 as an example of what’s wrong – but Salmon said he is also not a fan of the Extell Development tower.

“Better we have a living city with a couple of less-than-perfect buildings, than a stifled one governed by nostalgists and Nimbys,” Salmon wrote. [Reuters]Mark Maurer