Volume 22, Number 29 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 27 - December 3, 2009
Photos by Philip Greenberg
Architect Frank Gehry, left, and developer Bruce Ratner signed a large container of concrete at Beekman St. last week at a ceremony celebrating the building reaching the top, 867 feet.
Beekman tower tops out
The view from the top floor of the 76-story Beekman tower must be astounding — but Frank Gehry, the building’s architect, has no interest in seeing it just yet.
“I have height fright, so I’m not going up,” Gehry said during Beekman’s topping out ceremony last Thursday. “I’ll wait ’til the real elevators are in.”
At 867 feet, the city’s tallest residential building is also the first skyscraper designed by Gehry, a winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. The rippling stainless steel cladding is only just beginning to rise, following a progression of bare concrete floors that is now visible from all around Lower Manhattan and well beyond.
Gehry, who said his goal was to design “a building that is New York,” appeared a bit awestruck by the structure’s height. His first words to the crowd when he took the stage Thursday, after he paused to glance up at the tower, were, “No Viagra.”
The mixed-use tower on Beekman St. between Nassau and William Sts. will have the Spruce Street School in its base, 903 market-rate apartments and an ambulatory care center for New York Downtown Hospital. The first residents will begin moving in as soon as the summer of 2011, and the school could open that fall if the city determines that the building is safe.
Last Thursday’s topping out was a celebratory event, filled with handshakes and applause, but nearly every speaker mentioned the sober reality of the economic turndown, which almost halted the project at 38 stories last spring.
“We had real doubts we’d be able to do this,” said developer Bruce Ratner, C.E.O of Forest City Ratner. Only with concessions from the unions was the building able to rise to its full height, he said.
The centerpiece of the ceremony was a 10-ton bucket of wet concrete that was draped with an American flag and hoisted to the top of the building to the booming of “Born in the U.S.A.” Gehry tilted his head back and grinned as he watched the bucket getting smaller and smaller, finally disappearing out of sight as it reached its destination and was poured out.
Ratner and Gehry appeared friendly during the ceremony, though they were recently at odds over the stalled Atlantic Yards development and split ways on that project earlier this year. On Thursday, Gehry referred to Ratner as “my partner in crime,” and Ratner called Gehry “a genius architect.”
Among the smiling crowd at the topping out ceremony were several members of Community Board 1, including Joe Lerner, who vociferously opposed the height of the tower.
In between snapping photos of the tower and the ceremony, Lerner paused to shake his head. “It’s still too big,” he said.
— Julie Shapiro