August 22, 2013

LG_E Palisades 1
Palisades Interstate Park

LG_E Office above
Rendering of completed project

The stunning, uninterrupted tree-lined cliff views of the historic Palisades Interstate Park along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River are about to be destroyed if LG Electronics has its way. The South Korean electronics giant is aching to start yanking out trees and bulldozing near the peaceful, majestic 100 year old natural landmark and recreation area to build itself a $300 million glass and steel corporate headquarters that will rise 80’ above the tree line, giving them exclusive bragging rights to some of the most panoramic views of New York City and the Hudson River valley.

And everybody in New Jersey and New York can just lump it.

The structure’s 143’ reach was approved in February 2012 by a handful of people sitting on the Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board of Adjustments along, with a variance grant that would allow the structure to rise 4 times higher than the borough’s 35’ height limit. The Board acquiesced to the vertical design plans submitted by LG instead of insisting on a horizontal one which could have been easily accommodated on the company’s 27 acre tract. Political wrangling followed throughout the process, and in the wake of litigation brought in the New Jersey courts by opponents, the Board was disbanded by the Englewood Borough Council in April 2012.

But the damage was already done.

On Friday, August 9, 2013, NJ Superior Court Judge Alexander H. Carver III upheld the variance granted by the now defunct Board allowing the company to begin construction, and dismissed suits brought by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, Scenic Hudson and others. LG called the ruling “great news for the company and its employees, and especially for the local community because of the enormous economic benefits that this green building will bring to Englewood Cliffs, Bergen County and the State of New Jersey.”

But, in a not-so-glad-to-be-part-of-this-community statement, LG Public Affairs vice president John Taylor thumbed his nose at the growing opposition, saying "LG is not concerned about threats of the appeal. Municipalities have the authority to determine the best zoning decision. LG did everything correctly during the approval process and we plan to proceed.” Plans are already in full swing for the demolition of the existing structures on the property to jump-start the construction process.

So much for the good neighbor policy.

Meanwhile, community leaders and organizations including The Cloisters, the New York Restoration Project, the Manhattan Community Board 12, the Fort Tryon Park Trust, and the Coalition to Protect the Palisades aren’t planning to let LG snatch the catbird seat without a fight. Additional political political clout comes from former New Jersey state governors, Thomas Kean, Christine Todd Whitman, James Florio, Brendan Byrnes, State Senator Jeffrey Klein, U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, all calling on LG Electronics to lower the height of their high-rise.

“Erecting a building that will tower above the treetops will set an irreversible course for the permanent destruction of the Palisades,” Senator Klein said. “If we allow one, many will follow. Today we stand together in defense of what is, in many ways, defenseless.”

Judith Enck, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, summed it up nicely in June of this year when the EPA revoked the agency’s stamp of approval for the structure saying it “would be like building an office tower on the rim of the Grand Canyon.”

Time to let LG know how we roll in the Hudson River Valley, I think.

Boycott, anyone?

Cynthia is a criminal defense attorney in New York. She has a worked on high profile criminal cases, taught litigation as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC and has a radio talk show

Relevant links:
Protect the Palisades

New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

Scenic Hudson

New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs of GFWC

US Congressman, Eliot Engel

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