Environmental News: Media Center
NEW YORK (January 23, 2014) – In a case that could determine the fate of one of our country's great natural and historic landmarks—Palisades Interstate Park along the Hudson River—the Natural Resources Defense Council and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation are moving to join a lawsuit against LG Electronics over its plans to build an office tower that would rise high above the park, permanently spoiling the unbroken palisades sweeping northwards from the George Washington Bridge.
“If this massive office tower is constructed as planned, it will forever taint one of the most iconic scenic vistas in the nation – and open the door for more high-rise development to extend for miles upstream, undoing a century of conservation,” said Mark Izeman, Senior Attorney and Director of the New York Program at NRDC. “Fortunately, there is a ‘win-win’ solution available to LG: design smarter. By choosing an alternative, low-rise design on its large tract, LG can provide the same amount office space and the same number of jobs without destroying one of the last remaining natural places in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.”
The suit, which NRDC seeks to join as an intervener, challenges the company’s plan to build a 143-foot tower on the crest of the Palisades cliffs north of the bridge. By rising 90 feet above the tree line, the proposed building would spoil parkland and vistas enjoyed by millions from parks, parkways, pathways and bridges on both sides of the Hudson River. It would unnecessarily sacrifice a revered American landmark initially rescued from demolition 120 years ago by Theodore Roosevelt and citizens in New Jersey and New York, beginning a lasting interstate partnership for protection.
NRDC and NJCF are seeking to join residents of Englewood Cliffs, NJ, the New Jersey Women’s Federation and Scenic Hudson as plaintiffs in the case. The suit challenges the legality of a zoning variance that would allow LG to build a tower next to the Palisades Interstate Park that would be more than four times taller than the historic zoning limit that is respected by all other companies in the area.
“It is an historical achievement of American democracy that for 150 years, business, civic, and environmental leaders of New York and New Jersey have worked cooperatively to safeguard the sacred Hudson River Palisades from quarryman and reckless developers on behalf of our communities and its citizens,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., NRDC Senior Attorney and President of Waterkeeper Alliance. “We cannot now allow a greedy multinational to degrade our homeland by ruining one of its most iconic natural resources and landscapes.”
For more than a year, NRDC, NJCF and a coalition of 25 groups—along with four former New Jersey governors—have been urging LG to redesign its headquarters at a lower height to protect the Palisades, its parkland and vistas. That goal has also been advocated by four former governors of New Jersey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, editorial boards in both states, leading cultural and civic institutions including the Regional Plan Association, and many neighboring communities and citizens.
The Palisades Interstate Park is a pristine area of land along the west bank of the Hudson River running through northeastern New Jersey and southern New York. It includes parkland, natural steep rock cliffs, and the Palisades Interstate Parkway. In contrast to the heavy, high-rise development south of the George Washington Bridge, the cliffs and ridge tops of the Palisades to the north are unbroken for 13 miles upstream.
The Palisades are designated by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Palisades Interstate Parkway has been designated a state Scenic Byway. Efforts to preserve the Palisades have been ongoing since the end of the 19th century.
In 2011, LG Electronics—one the world’s largest electronics and appliance manufacturers—applied to the Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board in New Jersey for site approval and a number of variances to build a the 143-foot tower, that would relocate its North American Headquarters from two miles away. At that time, the permitted height in the relevant zone was 35 feet.
In February 2012, the zoning board approved the variance for the proposed building. And in August 2012, a Superior Court judge upheld the zoning board’s decision—without a single mention of the Palisades. NRDC seeks to intervene now to join the original plaintiffs in challenging that decision, and urging the court to reverse the lower court’s decision and preserve the historic Palisades.
For more information, go to www.ProtectThePalisades.org.