Thanks to You, a Note to ‘Condo Manhattan’ from an Editor

On May 18, The New York Times called for the city to approve 19 new and proposed condominium towers throughout Manhattan. It provided detailed arguments for both sides of the debate. Now two readers are firing back.

Bradford Ervin, a consultant for the city’s Community Board 6 and a real estate broker with CityRealty, wrote in to tell the readers how much he likes development and the buildings nearby. He said that too many readers made the mistake of believing that Condo Manhattan needs to be stopped to make way for retail and office space.

He doesn’t support the One57 luxury high-rise, Mr. Ervin said, which he called “a very, very small office building,” “not a building that’s going to encourage retail on the streets, not an amenity for the city at large.” The UES district, he continued, is the only place where there aren’t too many towers in the “right spots at the right time.”

On the other hand, Ilya Chaykin, an associate professor of architecture at Columbia University, said in his letter that not one of the 19 proposed towers would approach traditional downtown Manhattan. “In contrast,” he continued, “the new buildings look like downtown by definition.” To him, new buildings “offer an appealing opportunity for people who want to move downtown.”

Many commenters argue that Mr. Ervin’s argument is unprofessional, doesn’t make sense, or that this column is an unreasonable demand from one space in Manhattan. If it’s not a reasonable argument, though, why did Mr. Ervin write it, asking, “Why do you want to stop anything and say no to anything?” It seemed to be an odd thing to do, he later asked in his letter, to edit the “odious and unjustified” petition against the One57 project and then include his own opinion.

As far as Mr. Chaykin’s argument, he is called more “raunchy” than Mr. Ervin’s, which concerns the campaign. The poll got more than 33,000 votes. “Other people have questioned why I haven’t done more to stop One57,” Mr. Chaykin told us. “Some said I should explain my views on a piece of paper.” The wide range of viewpoints from readers has made him “embarrassed,” he said.

Well, then. Not everyone thinks The New York Times needs to establish itself in Manhattan as much as much as the trade and tourism industry needs it to, even if only for the “cushion and resolute” downtown real estate market. Brooklyn is up next, though, as The Guardian recently predicted.

From his letter, Mr. Chaykin’s advice is to read carefully and not say “yes” so you don’t have to support “op-ed and positive advertising.”

In conclusion, Mr. Ervin expresses skepticism about Mr. Chaykin’s overall reasoning, focusing on the unrealistic comparisons, comparing One57 to Richard Meier’s massive Eliot Building. He said he understands why Manhattan needs more space to “meet the needs of the people who live there, work there, shop there and go to all the museums and restaurants on their way to and from work.” But One57 isn’t really what it seems, he continued, “when you consider the view of the entire East Side from that building.” He admitted to not being a lover of architecture but said a developer like Mr. Meier is what makes Manhattan “special” and is “an integral part of its soul.”

Mr. Ervin ended his letter by advising, “If you’re not comfortable with the whole process, please take a walk around the east side of Manhattan.”

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