Landmarks Commission throws rocks at Ackman’s glass penthouse

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The city Landmarks Preservation Commission this week sent billionaire hedge funder Bill Ackman and his wife Neri Oxman back to the drawing board to modify plans for a two-story, glass penthouse they want to build atop a century old building near Central Park — an addition neighbors have panned as an attention-seeking vanity project that looks, among other things, like a wayward flying saucer.

It “looks like a Malibu beach house that got blown onto our roof,” Mary Breasted, who lives in the building at 6-16 West 77th Street, sniffed during Tuesday’s virtual Landmarks meeting.

The commission put off a vote on the design by renowned architect Norman Foster, which would replace a pink stucco home on top of the Upper West Side co-op, Bloomberg reported.

The structure is part of a four-apartment purchase that Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square, bought in 2018 for $22.5 million.

The couple was instead told to revisit their proposal, to make it slightly shorter so it’s less visible from the street, according to Business Insider.

Bill Ackman, chief executive officer and portfolio manager at Pershing Square Capita
Ackman said he spent two years working on the plans.
REUTERS/Richard Brian/File Photo

“We ask the applicants to continue to study this project,” Landmarks Chair Sarah Carroll said at the end of the hearing. “You are in the right direction, [but continue] thinking about how you can fulfill the design intent of this glass house on the roof by sinking it down, lowering it, maintain a more sort of horizontal quality.”

The plans for the 5,200-square-foot penthouse — which will take at least 18 months to build — were given a go-ahead advisory vote by Community Board 7 on Nov. 3.

But building resident Belle Horwitz told Landmarks that the co-op’s board hasn’t approved the plan, and that seven former board presidents who live in the building oppose it, according to Bloomberg.

Billionaire Bill Ackman
The design was done by renowned architect Norman Foster.
Foster + Partners

“It’s almost mocking us,” she continued, describing the design as “a deliberately discordant project whose sole objective is to call attention to itself.”

The commission received 50 letters opposing the proposal from individuals and another four from advocacy groups, Carroll said, according to Business Insider.

But one resident of the building who attended the hearing said the opponents were simply louder and more visible than the supporters.

“The number of shareholders in our building who oppose this project are wildly overrepresented in this hearing,” he said.

Ackman, who attended the Zoom hearing, said he spent two years working on the plans after ditching an earlier design that would have been too visible from the street.

His goal, he said, was to come up with a project that was more thoughtful and subtle for the rooftop overlooking Central Park.

“The last thing we wanted to do here was barge in and build something on someone else’s building disrespectfully,” he said.

Former New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger spoke in support of the design, saying it would replace a “mediocre penthouse with first-rate architecture.”

Billionaire Bill Ackman penthouse
The Landmarks Preservation Commission received 50 letters opposing the proposal from individuals and another four from advocacy groups.
Foster + Partners

Former NYC Parks Commissioner and former President of the New-York Historical Society Betsy Gotbaum called the plan “glorious” and said she was “blown away by the beauty” of the design.

It’s not clear when the existing penthouse, which is part of the original design of the 1927 building, was painted pink. Some opponents objected to destroying the existing structure. The property is not a city landmark, but falls within the Upper West Side/Central Park West historic district. 

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