The Cloisters museum and gardens, the Metropolitan Museum’s outpost for Medieval architecture and art in northern Manhattan, faces the tree-lined cliffs of the Palisades across the Hudson River in New Jersey. The view is picturesque, uninterrupted by the built environment. But soon, a 143-foot-high office complex designed by HOK could rise above the treetops—a change that some say will spoil the idyllic natural view.
LG Electronics USA’s plan to build an eight-story headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, has sparked protests from environmental and local advocacy groups, the Met, and Larry Rockefeller—whose grandfather donated four acres of land for the museum and park in New York and also purchased 700 acres along the cliffs on the other side of the river to keep the view unmarred.
“We were troubled by a project that would disregard 100 years of historic preservation of the Palisades,” said Mark Izeman, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
LG vice president John Taylor said that the headquarters is set a quarter mile back from the Palisades and “isn’t a tower,” but rather a “horizontal 8-story office building, which has gone through a very open and transparent [approval] process.”
More than a year ago, Englewood Cliffs Board of Adjustment granted LG a variance to exceed the 35-foot height limit in the area, a move later challenged in court. The property was subsequently rezoned to again allow for additional height, and then later approved for development by the New Jersey State Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection last fall. Headquartered in Englewood for the last 25 years, LG is a major taxpayer in Bergen County. Taylor anticipates that this new headquarters will bring a significant investment to the region and allow LG to more than double it employees by 2016.
“We are listening to their concerns and looking at a variety of options,” said Taylor. “They make it sound easy to make the building shorter. It is not that easy. We’re not ruling anything out at this point. To make modifications to the design would mean extending the time table for a redesign and more importantly and more risky is restarting the approval process.”
Several groups and individuals are taking action to prevent the new development from blemishing their much-loved views. The Met wrote a letter to LG requesting that they “reconsider the design.” Rockefeller, a trustee of the NRDC, spoke with LG officials to explain the significance of the landscape. Two Englewood residents along with several environmental groups—including Scenic Hudson, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs—filed lawsuits against the variance and rezoning. The two opposing parties, however, have agreed to meet with a neutral mediator in the next month.
“If the case can be settled, then that is an ideal solution,” said Hayley Carlock, the environmental advocacy attorney for Scenic Hudson.
LG has publically stood behind its plans. The company published a full-page advertisement, entitled “Englewood Cliffs is our Home,” in the Sunday edition of The Record in early February stating that their 493,000-square-foot headquarters, costing $300 million, will yield hundreds of construction jobs and lead to an expanded workforce and tax dollars for Bergen County.
“Some have suggested a false choice between jobs and the environment when LG can build a new headquarters and expand its number of employees at this location through a low-rise design,” said Izeman. “No one is suggesting they relocate somewhere else.”
Still, LG hopes to begin construction on the new campus this year once the lawsuits are sorted out, with construction wrapping up in 2016.