An Argument Against “Skyscraper Phobia” in the Big Apple

Kenneth T. Jackson of the New York Times expresses his opposition to recent density concerns in New York City, which he believes are compromising its future as the world’s greatest city.

In New York City, there has been a “growing local attitude that favors the old over the new, stability over growth, the status quo over change and short buildings over tall ones,” highlighted by recent opposition to the New York Department of City Planning’s proposal to rezone 73 blocks on the East Side of Manhattan (an area known as “East Midtown”) to allow for newer and bigger skyscrapers.

This “skyscraper phobia” is based on three main arguments: “that the city is already overdeveloped, that subways and trains cannot support more riders, and that new development will threaten historically significant structures.”

In this opinion piece, Jackson argues that density in neighborhoods with good public-transit options is actually a good thing, as it is what attracts outsiders to Manhattan in the first place. He also provides various data to claim that the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority could actually handle more riders, as “the number of patrons is still about 360 million per year fewer than in 1947 (2 billion riders then versus about 1.6 billion in 2012).” He debunks the third argument by claiming that the city’s historic preservation efforts have moved well beyond its original purpose, and believes that those leading preservation efforts “would be happy to stop any change at all between 59th Street and 125th Street.”

Jackson concludes that: “Those who oppose changes like the East Midtown plan may love New York, but they don’t understand that they are compromising its future as the world’s greatest city, because “a vital city is a growing city, and a growing city is a changing city.”

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