We told you a few days ago about a rising chorus of opposition to the construction of LG’s new 143-foot tall U.S. headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ – a borough which borders on a lush, green, wooded area of the state known as the Palisades – a National Natural Landmark. Now, in a scathing “Critic’s Notebook” article in Saturday’s New York Times, Michael Kimmelman compares how Samsung – also building a new headquarters building in San Jose, CA – took steps to be a good corporate citizen and fit in with the community…versus the approach by LG, “…a lousy neighbor.”
A critique of building design, the article didn’t pull any punches in thoughts about LG…
In the article titled Corporate Design: An Energizer Versus an Eyesore (subtitled: Opposition Keeps Mounting to LG Project on the Hudson), Kimmelman began the article by noting how the two South Korean companies are rivals in many things…including in their designs and approach to developing new headquarter buildings in the U.S. He then went into a generally positive description of Samsung’s new 1.1-million-square-foot North American headquarters that is scheduled to be finished next year. Samsung’s design, Kimmelman suggests, is stylistically similar to Apple’s HQ and fits in nicely with the high-tech aesthetics in the Northern California-area in which it’s being built.
Samsung included thoughtful touches, the article noted, such as linking their HQ building with the local light-rail system so employees can take mass transit to work, as opposed to clogging the local roadways with thousands of added vehicles. Samsung’s eco-friendly design includes space for use by the general public such as public gardens, plazas and even a cafe.
A distinctly different path…
LG, on the other hand, chose a distinctly different path, the Times article suggests. LG picked a tower design that rises 143-feet above grade…and way above the surrounding trees of the Palisades. But with this choice, LG hit an obstacle.
For almost a century, communities in and around the Palisades had enforced zoning restrictions on any structure that would be tall enough to ruin the scenic beauty of the area. Englewood Cliffs, where LG has a 27-acre site, had just such a restriction – allowing no buildings over 35-feet tall.
But according to the Times “…the company, a hefty local taxpayer, won a variance.” It was this variance that shocked local environmental groups into action – including filing a lawsuit, that LG ultimately won. This was then followed by an appeal by the environmentalists. That appeal now rests with the New Jersey appeals court.
Yet another powerful voice joins in…
Last week, another powerful voice weighed in on the LG headquarters controversy, U.S. Senator Charles E. Shumer (Democrat, New York), whom the Times says has joined “a growing chorus of justified protests against this egregious project.”
“After more than a century of both New York and New Jersey working to preserve the unparalleled natural beauty of the Palisades,” the Times quoted Senator Shumer, “one company should not be permitted to sweep in and taint that iconic landscape, particularly when an alternative building plan exists.”
As we have previously reported, Shumer joins a growing cadre of groups and individuals aligning against the LG project. Just this past week, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed papers with the New Jersey appeals court urging it to stop the project. There are about a dozen environmental groups on record against the project, as well as a group of four former New Jersey governors (bi-partisan), a group of four other New Jersey mayors from towns near the Palisades, as well as others.
LG begins construction…
By all appearances, LG is unmoved and has pushed forward with construction. Environmentalists say that, with 27-acres at its disposal, LG could easily have designed a lower and longer building that would have met their housing requirement, as well as be consistent with the existing local ordinances. And more to the environmentalists’ point, would preserve the beauty of the Palisades.
But LG says changing plans now would take too long. “A redesign of the building will severely delay the economic and community benefits the new building will bring to the region,” the Times quotes LG’s website. “New Jersey needs jobs now.”
The usual claptrap…
Kimmelman called this last statement “the usual developer claptrap, exploiting the employment card.”
In comparing the approach taken by Samsung with their San Jose HQ project…and the path chosen by LG for its Englewood Cliffs HQ project, Kimmelman is succinct: “Samsung comes across as a good citizen here; LG as a lousy neighbor.”
A public shame…
And the critic’s final thought?
“The LG project will turn off countless customers by despoiling a cherished landmark,” Kimmelman said bluntly. “It will be a constant reminder on the skyline to shop Samsung. You’d think the company’s bosses wouldn’t want to look bad compared to their rival. The project in San Jose is thoughtful. LG’s is a public shame.”