New York Billionaire Called for Overhaul of “Temple to a Titan” Penthouse Plans

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Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman was asked to overhaul his penthouse project atop a historic Manhattan apartment building after his neighbors complained that it looked like “a Malibu beach house that was blown onto our New York rooftop ”.

Ackman, who has amassed around $ 3.3 billion (£ 2.5 billion) from his hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, failed to convince the New York Monument Preservation Commission to approve the Norman Foster designed two story penthouse atop an Upper West Side building overlooking Central Park.

Sarah Carroll, the chairman of the commission, told Ackman that the design elicited such strong feelings from local residents – who described it as resembling a “flying saucer” or “a temple to a titan” – that he has to bring it back to the drawing board.

She said the commission would neither approve nor deny the penthouse plan, and instead called on Ackman and Foster to reduce the size and scope of the project.

“We ask applicants to continue to study this project,” Carroll said after a community meeting Tuesday night. “You are in the right direction, [but continue] thinking about how you can fulfill the design intention of this roof glass house by sinking it, lowering it, maintaining a kind of horizontal quality. She hasn’t set a deadline for Ackman to resubmit her plans.

The move came after a series of local residents and conservation experts spoke out against the design of the penthouse at 6-16 West 77th Street.

Mary Breasted, a novelist who has lived in the building for 14 years, said the apartment looked “shockingly out of place… like a Malibu beach house that was blown onto our New York rooftop.”

Zoom meeting of the Commission for the Preservation of Monuments.

Christabel Gough, the secretary of the Society for the Architecture of the City, told the Preservation Commission Zoom meeting that she could understand the appeal of the rooftop apartment to Ackman and his wife, Neri Oxman , but asked the commissioners to think about the effect on the rest of the inhabitants of the city.

“Looking from the inside out, this object would undoubtedly appeal to those Tom Wolfe has dubbed ‘master of the universe’, but looking from the outside upwards [at it] this addition on the roof is problematic, ”said Gough, who has attended almost every committee meeting for 37 years.

She said that the “gigantic glass walls [providing] An unobstructed view that makes the outlook so desirable for the private owner “would turn the penthouse into a” dazzling beacon “seen from across the city and even by passengers flying into JFK Airport.

Foster, the three-time Stirling Prize-winning architect who designed London’s Millennium Bridge and Gherkin Tower, and Berlin’s Reichstag parliament, compared the plans to Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut. He told the committee that the penthouse was designed to be “very gentle” and “very respectful” to the original building from 1927.

Ackman, who purchased the building’s existing pink stucco penthouse for $ 22.5 million in 2017, said the current structure is dilapidated and needs to be demolished. He promised the commission that the apartment designed by Foster would be a “great asset to New York City.”

Zoom meeting of the Commission for the Preservation of Monuments.

Ackman said he wanted to make sure the apartment fits into the surroundings and said he removed a previous design because the second floor was “too visible”. “The last thing we wanted to do here was break in and build something on someone else’s building disrespectfully,” he said.

The apartment was previously owned by feminist and gender politician author Nancy Friday. The author, who died in 2017, had over the years bought four neighboring dwellings in the building and had tinkered with them to create the unusual 13-room apartment.


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