Palisades Deal Clears Way for Office Building While Safeguarding Scenic Views

Tom Johnson | June 24, 2015 | Energy & Environment
LG Electronics sharply scales back original plans, opting for 70-foot building rather than 140-foot spire


The Palisades at Englewood Cliffs, viewed from upper Manhattan.
In a compromise hailed by all parties, an electronics company has sharply scaled back plans to build a huge office tower overlooking the Palisades in Englewood Cliffs, a project opposed by four former governors, local officials in six neighboring towns, and environmentalists.

Instead of a building that would have been 143 feet high, LG Electronics agreed to a new design that calls for a five-story north wing just shy of 70 feet in height, and a three-story south wing, which protects scenic views of the Palisades on both sides of the Hudson River.

The $300 million project in the works since 2009 previously had won all necessary approvals, but had been held up by lawsuits on appeal in the state’s Appellate Division. But critics argued that the original project would have destroyed iconic views of the Palisades, which have the distinction of being designated both a national historic and a national natural landmark.

“We found a solution that satisfies LG’s business needs and addresses concerns of our neighbors on both sides of the Hudson,’’ said William Cho, president and CEO of LG Electronics USA.

The new design retains the scale of the original proposal, providing an additional 300,000 square-foot corporate campus, enough to allow LG to double its local workforce to 1,000. The company’s new plan also will protect woodlands and six wetlands on the 27-acre site, using landscaping, lighting, and other design features to further reduce visual impact.

Four former governors — Brendan Byrne, Jim Florio, Tom Kean, and Christine Todd Whitman — praised the agreement. Two years ago, they had written to LG’s CEO urging a compromise that would accommodate the company’s need for a new headquarters while protecting the Palisades.

[related]“LG listened, and this week’s agreement demonstrates that a strong economy goes hand-in-hand with strong environmental protection,’’ the governors said in a joint statement.

Mark Izeman, director of the New York regional program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted that preserving the cliffs and Hudson River views more than a century ago marked an early milestone of the conservation movement in America. “Today’s agreement shows we can keep this tradition alive in the 21st century when we work together and find common ground,’’ he said.

The NRDC was one of several interest groups that reached the agreement with LG. The others included Scenic Hudson, the leading plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the zoning approvals to allow the building of a 143-foot office tower; New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs; New Jersey Conservation Foundation; and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

Englewood Cliffs Mayor Joseph Parisi Jr. welcomed the agreement, too. “The entire community is thrilled that LG will remain in town, while demonstrating in a very real way LG’s commitment to the preservation of the environment.

Despite the agreement, some groups plan to lobby the Legislature to pass a bill (S-2025), sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) that would prohibit development higher than 35 feet in the Hudson River Palisades watershed. The bill has won approval from the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, which Smith chairs.