Vision: New York Historical Society Tower at 7-13 West 76th Street, by Richard Meier
The Upper West Side is one of New York’s strongest NIMBY bastions, and the tale of a tower proposed by the New York Historical Society for 7-13 West 76th Street is yet another example of deserving development derailed by whining. While local opposition resulted in the project’s demise before it could move beyond the planning stages, YIMBY has found the first publicly available images for the site, which could (and should) give rise to a building of similar proportions.
Richard Meier’s website details the structure thusly:
The 21-story tower has been carefully sited to both preserve the unique presence of the existing landmark museum and to minimize any impact on the neighboring residential buildings. The tower massing has been made elegantly thin and is set back from the front façade of the museum to create a clear separation from the museum’s landmarked architecture.
Renderings corroborate the description, and the tower would have been a very modest, 21-story addition to the skyline. Central Park West is lined with towers that are far larger, including the 27-story tall San Remo, just two blocks south between 74th and 75th Streets.
Meanwhile, opposition to the New York Historical Society’s tower hinged on the typical superficial reasoning, centered on the notion that change is bad. Regarding the tower’s death, John Bolanos – the West 76th Street Park Block Association’s President — told The New York Times “[it's] a victory for communities because it reinforces the idea that they can preserve their character and at times avoid useless development.”
Perhaps this best illustrates one of the core tenets of NIMBY mentality: that neighborhood character is only dependent on buildings, and that regulating their construction can maintain “character” (i.e., the existing population) indefinitely. While it is relatively easy to preserve the city’s built form, its human populations will always continue to change, and freezing the Upper West Side like Pripyat will not prevent this.
While Richard Meier’s tower would have been a positive for both the neighborhood and the skyline, the project has been tabled. But as core NIMBY groups begin to age out of the demographic pyramid, perhaps 7-13 West 76th Street will have a future after all — it will just take time.
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