“Central Park was conceived as a democratic experiment,” said Warren St. John, a journalist who last fall began calling attention to the shadows created by a group of exceptionally tall buildings now rising just south of the park. St. John, speaking at the New York Public Library, during a community forum on February 19, said the towers will contain condos for the superrich, whose views will come at the cost of sunlight on lawns and playgrounds enjoyed by millions of New Yorkers.
The discussion, attended by nearly 500 people, was an indication of widespread concern about the effects on Central Park of what Margaret Newman, the new executive director of the Municipal Art Society, called “the accidental skyline” But the discussion was also an indication of the difficulty of doing anything to stop the buildings, which are being constructed as-of-right (that is, without the need for zoning variances). Gary Barnett, the developer of the 1,000-foot-tall One57, designed by Christian de Portzamparc, said his building is already less than half as wide as zoning laws would have permitted. At the same time, he said, the towers will provide thousands of jobs, a benefit that, in his view, outweighs the cost of shadows that, he said, would pass across the park in minutes.