High Finance

A New Rival for the Empire State


When the giant financial services firm Lehman Brothers Holdings filed for bankruptcy in 2008, few in New York imagined that the worst financial crisis of the century would coincide with a skyscraper construction boom comparable even to the one that in the 1920s and 1930s gave rise to the most celebrated pinnacles of the metropolis, the Chrysler and the Empire State Building.

But that is exactly what happened: in the period between 2008 and 2018, while markets collapsed right and left and the modest classes suffered the effects, a bunch of superslender towers rose to change the silhouette of Manhattan’s most expensive zones, creating a haven for capital coming in from all over the world, from China to Russia through the countries of the Gulf.

None of these towers, however, managed to overtake the mythical Empire State Building in height (381 meters), whose primacy in the city skyline (seen from One World Trade Center, standing 541 meters, at the south end of the island) is now threatened by Tower Fifth, a project that real estate magnate Harry B. Macklowe and the consulting firm Gensler have together submitted to the municipal authorities for approval. This new residential high-rise will, if erected, soar very close to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, and its height of 474 meters will make it the second tallest building in New York City and even the entire western hemisphere.

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