Commissioners Reject LG’s Proposal to Ruin Palisades Park

By Jen Benepe – February 25, 2014 –Fort Lee, NJ

The commissioners of the Palisades Park system unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday rejecting LG’s proposed building

Exec. Dir. and Commissioner Jim Hall (left) looks on as Commissioner White reads the PIPC resolution against LG Electronics and their proposed 8-story building. The resolution was unanimously approved minutes later by all seven commissioners present.

that would tower over the tree line in the historic park.

In a resolution that was approved by each one of the commissioners present, including the executive director of the Palisades Park, Jim Hall, LG was urged to “lower the proposed height of the building to below the tree line in order to preserve the scenic beauty of the Palisades.”

The measure received resounding applause from a packed audience of about 150 people who had come to support the commissioners’ resolution.  When Commissioner White asked those present if anyone in the room was opposed to the measure being adopted, not one person raised their hand.

“I want to applaud the commissioners for passing the LG resolution today,” said Joshua Hyman, president of the Palisades Park Conservancy after the vote. “This is something they have been addressing for the past few years, but today it is formalized.”

LG Electronics, a Korean-owned and operated company that had sales over $23 billion in 2012, has not responded to any overtures from the park commission since LG first floated their proposed building whose 8 stories would tower over the sight line of the park.

Representing both the New York and New Jersey offices of the historic park which stretches from Harriman, NY, down to Fort Lee, NJ, the commissioners also asked that LG refrain from implying on their site and in marketing communications that the PIPC approves of their project, because they do not said Jim Hall.

They also urged management of the company, which is exclusively Korean, to adopt a lower development model that does not disturb the historic sight line.

More than 150 people and regional media packed the auditorium at Fort Lee Historic Park to witness the formal disapproval of the LG plan by the PIPC Commissioners.

While the commissioners’ resolution does not have any legal implications for the company, the entity could technically make life difficult for them. For example, the parks commission could erect temporary structures in the park that would block LG’s view, making their development not only a waste of time, but also of money.

In the theater of public opinion, PIPC’s public disapproval of the proposed development is akin to a disapproval from the Pope for a proposed development in Italy that blocks the view of the Vatican: it makes LG not only look bad, but look like bad guys.

This is not the first time the PIPC have opposed LG’s planned building said Jim Hall, executive director of the parkland: since the idea was first floated, PIPC was clear in establishing their opposition he told the audience. “We had expressed our opinion [against the development's height] during the board of adjustment hearings, and in subsequent letters,” he said, but were

A woman held one of the signs being passed out by opponents to LG’s proposed “atrocity”, an 8-story complex made so executives can get an unfettered view of the river, ironically only preserved thanks to the historic park agreement of the 1930′s.

ignored.

Also attending the meeting were several advocacy groups who are mounting a legal campaign against LG.  The Amicus Curae brief which is headed by Columbia University’s law clinic will include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Protect the Palisades, the Palisades Park Conservancy, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s ClubsScenic Hudson, Inc. the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and residents of Englewood Cliffs.

Last week, the mayors of six towns in the area sent a letter to LG management making clear their disapproval of the project.  Currently only the town of Englewood Cliffs has changed an historic agreement settled in the 1930′s that the land fronting the Palisades Park would be subject to a building height variance maximum of 35 feet. In addition, four former governors of New Jersey have voiced their opposition to LG’s height plan, among them Gov. Christine Whitman,

The Board of Adjustments committee that was formed to approve the change in variance in Englewood Cliffs has disbanded since it was created–perhaps some opponents say–on purpose to avoid criticism and controversy, as well as blocking the ability of its residents to question the committee’s decision after the fact.

The mayor of Englewood Cliffs, Joseph Parisi, has been the lone voice along the seven-mile stretch of Route 9W towns to believe that changing the historic height limits is acceptable, despite the fact that residents in his town are opposed to the development.

Many of the attendees at the historic vote have formed groups that will join with the lawsuit against LG, to block their development that will tower over the sight line of the Palisades.

“The palisades provides a unique urban veiwshed and park experience, similar to national parks out west, ” said Mark Izeman, attorney who represents the NRDC.

“In the same way when you are standing in the Grand Canyon National Park, you would be startled to see tall office tower peeking up above the cliff. In the same way, what millions of people get out of the palisades is the view and the experience that has existed for centuries,” he added.

In addition, Izeman says the variance approved by the short term committee was not legal. In their current case now in New Jersey Appellate court, “we are arguing this in part because it did not take into consideration the impact it would have on the Palisades,” he added.  In fact, he noted, the word “Palisades,” wasn’t even mentioned in the lower court case.

“Unless LG comes to its senses it is very likely that this litgation will end up in the states highest court,” said Izeman.

Below, the full resolution approved on February 24, 2014 at the Fort Lee Historic Park:

Commissioners: Jim Hall, David Mortimer, Barney McHenry, Phillip White, Lloyd Tulp, and Keith Cornell, with Commissioner Samuel Pryor participating by phone.

Palisades Park LG Resolution:

Whereas, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission was created to maintain and operate park land “for the use of the public and for the purpose of preserving the scenic beauty of the Palisades and other lands therein”; and

Whereas, under the Palisades Interstate Park Commission’s Congressionally approved 1937 Interstate Compact, it was agreed to and pledged the “faithful co-operation in the future planning, improvement, development, maintenance, government and management of the park, holding in high trust for the benefit of the public the special blessings and natural advantages thereof”; and

Whereas, with a fourfold increase upon existing zoning, the 143-foot height of the proposed development of the LG USA Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, poses a new threat and precedent to the scenic beauty of the Palisades north of the George Washington Bridge; and

Whereas, the development needs of an LG USA headquarters on this 27-acre site can be achieved at a lower building height that would not pose such a threat and precedent to the scenic beauty of thePalisades; and

Whereas, the Commission, through the Executive Director, provided correspondence and testimony to the Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board expressing concerns about the adverse visual impact on the Park and its historic and scenic integrity as a national landmark by the proposed height of the building and sent a letter dated November 14, 2012 to Seog-Won Park, Chief Executive Officer of LG Electronics USA, Inc., expressing similar concerns; and

Whereas, letters from the National Park Service dated December 23, 2013 from William Bolger, National Historic Landmark Manager and January 7, 2014 from Kristina Heister, Chief of Natural Resources for the Northeast Region both detail the significance of the area and how the construction of a 143-foot building would threaten the integrity of this nationally designated area.

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that the Palisades Interstate Park Commission finds that the height of the proposed LG USA Headquarters building above the tree line is not in accordance with our stewardship mission and the public trust to preserve the scenic beauty of the Palisades and would create a precedent inconsistent with our mission and again urge the management of LG USA, Inc. to lower the proposed height of the building to below the tree line in order to preserve the scenic beauty of thePalisades; and

Further Be It Resolved that the Palisades Interstate Park Commission requests LG USA, Inc. to refrain from implying, in correspondence or its website, that the Palisades Interstate Park Commission does not have concerns with the proposed 143-foot building height; and

Further Be It Resolved that the Palisades Interstate Park Commission indicates its continued interest and willingness to work with LG USA, Inc. in finding a suitable solution to the building height at this location.

 

  • MattNYC

    My only fear is that most of the actions have been non-binding. Is there any single entity that can actually legally block the development? Can they just build it anyway and ignore all the opposition?

    • Jennifer Benepe

      Matt, a group is suing LG to block the building height. They are planning to go as high as the Supreme Court. We have more news on this whole issue, hoping to publish more tomorrow. But if LG wins the Supreme Court case—assuming it reaches the sc, then yes, it would appear they could build. However, the public could boycott their products and demonstrate outside their headquarters as well as send hundreds of thousands of letters to the mayor of englewood cliffs. Much can still be done.
      Jen b.

  • Barbara Hobens Feldt

    Thanking all involved and a pat on the back to all us “little guy” petition signers who have been so upset at the mere suggestion that this could have happened.