New York City’s Skyline Now Just Rich People’s Empty Apartments

432 Park Ave

Although Brooklyn is in the throes of a startlingly rapid vertical reinvention northsouth, and east, our development is nothing compared to the shoots that have sprouted on the mainland—most notably 432 Park Avenue, set to be the tallest residential building in the Western hemisphere; One57; and the just-announced 125 Greenwich Street, which will stand just 12 feet shorter than its considerably more famous downtown neighbor, 1 World Trade Center. Whatever this may mean for Manhattan’s real estate market, these and similar buildings will have one long-lasting effect: They will now be part of the city’s skyline, previously composed almost exclusively (depending on the view) of office and civic buildings.

What’s more, a sizable chunk of the apartments in these impossibly tall, impossibly expensive buildings are unoccupied, used more or less as cash storage for foreign billionaires. That’s their business, I suppose, and the legality of such an arrangement really seems to loosen up at a certain altitude. But why subject the city (much less the hemisphere) to such an eyesore?

For as boring-ugly as 432 Park, One57, and 125 Greenwich are, the saddest aspect of their permanent place in New York City’s skyline, aside from the loss of sunlight, is… well, their permanent place in New York City’s skyline. Not that the view wasn’t fairly capitalist to begin with, but that two residential buildings are now poking their (might we say overcompensatory) spires above the most iconic structure in the city is weirdly unsettling.

The appearance of multimillion-dollar residential buyscrapers(TM)that cast shadows on the city’s longstanding landmarks and public parks transcends metaphor. Postcards, T-shirts, and helicopter B roll will now prominently feature these buildings, one of which will have three entire floors reserved for maid’s rooms, and likely a poor door to boot. Call it knee-jerk Occupyism, but when luxury residential tower rises above a 1,250-foot office tower built by immigrants in the depth of the Great Depression, something’s changed here, and not for the better.

Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.

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  1. Well written & on point article. I’m a 3rd generation, native New Yorker who has remained here as a sign of respect to my great grandparents who struggled to come here from Sicily. However, the more I travel, the more anxiety I suffer from upon returning to this empty city … which may only appear crowded, but lacks every last bit of warmth, toughness & culture that helped to build it. I believe its decline began somewhere in the mid to late 1990’s, when music started to become unbearably horrible. Today, the place might as well be Cincinnati (I am not exaggerating even a little when I say there are more residents from Ohio than there are natives). Sections of Jersey feel more like New York than NY does … and to me, that’s just sad.