Bloomberg View published this Feb. 14 editorial headlined: “No need to demolish top Rockefeller Center office building.” It begins:
When Donald Trump announced last week that he was moving the Trump Organization’s headquarters from lower Manhattan to Trump Tower in Midtown, he announced a homecoming of sorts. For three decades, the business now known as Trump has held offices at Rockefeller Center.
Now, they’re moving to another neighborhood down the block: One57. It’s a luxury building, though not yet fully occupied, that’s gone to great lengths to evoke a handcrafted connection to the legendary art deco Empire State Building, across the street. The teardrop staircase leading down the center of the 55th floor looks like it was taken straight from the Empire State, and the marble floor and doors on the lobby are more authentic than the Empire State and its New York-themed flourishes. Trump has since filed suit against the building’s owner, trying to attach his name to the nearby Trump Tower as collateral. He should be glad this is in dispute, not deadlocked in court.
The onus is on the Trump Organization to demonstrate that it knows better, and didn’t get duped. But the building is also not hard to prove doesn’t look like the Empire State. Well-known architect Daniel Libeskind, who worked on the building with Diller Scofidio & Renfro, has a new book out, “Migrations: Landscapes, Places, Ideas,” that looks at what he calls the “third branch” of Midtown architecture: “Crossroads/Ingleside space,” that’s the pedestrian route through the artery that becomes 51st Street, and the blueline-patterned big orange box at the center of the Columbia World Trade Center.
A related phrase, which clearly refers to One57, appears in the book and comes close to describing it, too.
Oddly, Bloomberg describes these two references, saying that they suggest One57 “may look out to a historic New York Bridge.” The old Williamsburg Bridge turns 115 years old this year; it was built in 1890 in Yaphank, Long Island, one of the original “golden hips” of Long Island. It originally connected East New York to the tony neighborhood of Hamptons.
In this, Bloomberg Notes its certainty that the phenomenon of neighboring apartments also holds true, saying that “the building will offer residents a panoramic view of Midtown and also allow for public and private mingling on the 71st floor with the Empire State Building.” The building’s “soundtrack is an awful lot like the sound of hoofbeats. You can see people boarding the elevator and moving up to the 71st floor and then walking down to the lobby. It looks like a combination of the Deutsche Bank building and the Explorers Club, two other riverside landmarks.”
How did O.J. Simpson end up at Rockefeller Center?
Bloomberg also rightly notes that a dispute over One57 — widely known as the so-called “Billionaire’s Row” in Manhattan — should not obscure something more important: It was someone’s idea, and they should have the right to use it. In the financial-services realm, lobbying is a legal, fact-based business, one in which confidence in your boss or company is as important as the long-term data you produce. This is why executives pay bonuses, regardless of performance.
One can argue that a few real-estate developers aren’t as successful as others at attracting buyers. Still, the fact remains that Manhattan’s wealth is a cultural phenomenon, most of which is amassed during a cultural time period, and everyone benefits from wealth-creating companies — including Bloomberg.
It is not only the idea, but also the courage and excitement behind the concept that creates wealth, no matter where it ends up. Confidence is needed if you are to ask and answer the big questions: How do we win in the information age? Can we sustain a healthy economy that creates more and better jobs? What strategies are necessary to alter the national political and social climate to alleviate inequality?
During times of economic distress, these questions have always served as a beacon of hope and optimism. Hopefully, our new president, whoever it may be, will have the courage to put them front and center.