Downtown Express photo by Vadim Shepel
The Beekman tower designed by Frank Gehry
Ratner says Gehry tower will keep rising
By Julie Shapiro
Word spread quickly that Forest City Ratner planned to chop the rising Beekman St. tower in half, leaving it at its current height of 38 stories.
The rumors started two weeks ago when workers recently stopped adding floors and WNYC reported that contractors applied for a permit to add a roof.
Joyce Baumgarten, spokesperson for Forest City, said the rumors are exaggerated. The permit was actually for the tower’s first setback, not for the roof, she said. The permits look similar, which could have caused the confusion, she added.
Baumgarten said the addition of new floors had paused so Forest City could look for ways to save money, possibly by re-bidding construction contracts. She is not worried about finding a market for the building’s 903 apartments, which will range from $4,000 to $15,000 a month.
“There’s been no change in the design of the building,” Baumgarten said in a phone interview last week. “Work is continuing on the building.”
In a statement, Baumgarten added, “Given current economic conditions, including downward trends in construction costs, we are conducting a study to evaluate potential opportunities to achieve savings on the project.”
Joseph Rechichi, a senior vice president with Ratner, said in January that Ratner had all of the $680 million in financing necessary to complete the Frank Gehry-designed tower. The building is slated to finish in 2011 with the new K-8 Spruce Street School in its base and an ambulatory center for New York Downtown Hospital, along with the high-end apartments.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who led the negotiations to get the K-8 school, said in a statement that he was reassured Forest City had promised to continue building the school. Forest Ctiy has said school could open in 2010 but many people, including Silver, expect it to open in 2011.
Despite Forest City’s assurances, many local residents are skeptical that the project’s finances are in good order, especially after seeing so many other projects stall recently. Also, the stock of Forest City Enterprises has lost more than 90 percent of its value in the past year.
The residents who live in the tower’s shadow and fought its erection had a mix of reactions to the possibility of it stopping at 38 stories.
“Definitely it’s better for the neighborhood,” said Suzanne Fass, who lives at 140 Nassau St. “It’s less intrusive, less of a target and less of a drain on whatever services and infrastructure we have.”
Fass said the potential change in height would not affect her building directly, since the tower already dwarfs 140 Nassau and blocks most of the light that once reached it.
Williams Cosby, another 140 Nassau resident, said a truncated building would be more in keeping with the neighborhood, but the most important thing is that the building gets finished.
“I would rather them build it to its full height and complete it than stop halfway and not complete it,” Cosby said. “I would hate for it to fall into some economic crack where they don’t finish it for some reason.”
Alan Mitchell, who lives at 150 Nassau St., agreed that the worst thing for the neighborhood would be to have an unfinished building. The full-sized tower wouldn’t block much more light and air than the half-sized tower already blocks, he said.
The residents of 140 and 150 Nassau St. negotiated with Forest City several years ago to set the tower back from their windows, with a plaza in between.
Gehry’s twisty, shimmering design for the tower has found fierce defenders on online forums like SkyscraperPage.com.
“HALF SIZE .. NO WAY !!!” wrote CSABA8. “That was my favorite building. So sad to hear!”
Added a calmer commenter named CoolCzech, “It would be just incredibly shortsighted to allow a recession to gut the heart out of this magnificent project. I can only assume — and hope — the developer is playing some kind of game for some extra concessions or something.”
Fass, the 140 Nassau resident, said the distraught online commenters did not sway her.
“They don’t live across the street from it,” she said.