Dumb-no! New towers will ruin nabe’s view of Empire State Building framed by Manhattan Bridge, locals say

Dumb-no! New towers will ruin nabe’s view of Empire State Building framed by Manhattan Bridge, locals say
Associated Press / Kathy Willens

It’s a view about to be killed!

A quartet of towers poised to rise across the river from Dumbo in Manhattan will block Washington Street’s iconic view of the Empire State Building framed by the Manhattan Bridge, locals fear.

“This would be a travesty,” said Kevin McAuley, who lives in the neighborhood. “It’ll go up and then it’s irreversible — people don’t think through the consequences.”

A foursome of builders wants to erect the 80-, 69-, 63-, and 62-story high-rises in the outer borough on the bank of the East River in a massive development project that needs approval from the City Planning Commission, but isn’t required to formally go before the community or Council as part of the lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Manhattanites have protested the project for months, charging the towers would kick out long-term residents, speed up gentrification, and wreak havoc in the neighborhood.

But locals argue the development’s biggest casualty will be felt in Dumbo, where its 69- and 62-story towers that together recall a U-shape structure will likely block the view of the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper from the corner of Washington and Water streets, according to a bigwig from cultural-advocacy group the Municipal Art Society, who referenced internal renderings the group created that superimposes the proposed high-rises over the current skyline, showing how they may block the view.

“The sort of U-shaped development would be seen from the spot squarely behind the bridge,” said Tara Kelly. “Based on that model, it would be pretty much in that line with the Empire State Building.”

Popular vantage point: A gaggle of girls posed for a group photo with the Empire State Building framed by the Manhattan Bridge in the background when this newspaper went to capture the imperiled view on Tuesday.
Photo by Brianna Kudisch

The historic, Belgian block street is known for attracting newlyweds and other visitors from around the city and world who want to photograph special moments with the backdrop of the Empire State Building through the Manhattan Bridge’s arched supports — and it would be a shame for the city to destroy that view, according to a 50-year Washington Street resident.

“It’s become a tourist attraction like the Colosseum, people come from all over the world and stand there and take pictures,” said Richard Mauro. “It’s embedded in my DNA.”

How future developments affect such picturesque streets or so-called “view sheds” is an issue that does not get enough attention from officials as projects snake their way through various approval processes, but vistas are as important to protect as physical buildings or neighborhoods, according to the head honcho of private preservationist group the Historic Districts Council.

And the city should think twice before green-lighting the massive Manhattan development — especially because the only other protected view of the Manhattan skyline in Kings County, from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, may also change forever if officials move forward with plans to destroy and rebuild the walkway as part of their looming repairs to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway’s triple cantilever, the preservationist said.

“The one place in New York City where the views are protected is from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which they are now trying to destroy. We don’t have protected views,” said Simeon Bankoff. “Take a picture, it lasts longer.”

There are many traits that make Dumbo special — including its beloved Belgian blocks, which the city is controversially restoring and replacing in order to make neighborhood streets more accessible — but few provide as singular a sense of place as the Washington Street view, Bankoff said.

“The framing of the views of the waterfront, underneath the Manhattan Bridge particularly, and down the street, really do add to the district,” he said.

Blockade: The four towers likely to rise along the East River in Manhattan.
SHoP Architects

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.