In a lawsuit filed by two public interest groups and four individuals, Judge Alexander Carver of the New Jersey Superior Court yesterday upheld the grant of a variance to LG Electronics that would allow it to construct a 143-foot tower atop the Hudson River Palisades, four times higher than the 35-foot height limit respected for decades by all other companies.
The variance, approved by the Borough of Englewood Cliffs in February 2012, authorizes construction of a building that would rise 80 feet above the tree line, ending an unbroken natural sweep of the Palisades north of Fort Lee. Despite this, the court ruled that the Englewood Cliffs Planning Board had not abused its authority in granting the variance that exempted the LG tower.
The public interest plaintiffs vowed to appeal. In responding to the decision, Linda Babeuf, President of the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs said, “The 8,000 members of the Federation are deeply disappointed by the Court’s decision. More than 100 years ago, the Federation led the fight that protected the Palisades against unbridled quarrying. Today, with our partners, we have been dealt a setback in our decades long campaign to preserve this grand escarpment against destruction by high-rise development. We will appeal and continue our efforts to persuade LG to reduce the height of its tower.”
Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson said, “We regret Judge Carver’s decision. This is a setback not only for the citizens of New Jersey and New York, but for all Americans. Because of their geology and extraordinary natural beauty in an otherwise urban setting, the Palisades are both a National Historic Site and a National Natural Landmark. If this decision were to stand, it – and the bad precedent it would set – would lead to the destruction of this heritage by incompatible development. We cannot and will not let this happen.”
Angelo Morresi, attorney for the public interests groups, said: “We have reviewed the decision and believe that it is erroneous. We plan to appeal.”
The LG project has encountered widespread opposition, including from four former New Jersey governors, the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency and a number of elected officials in New Jersey and New York. The Bergen Record, the Newark Star Ledger, the New York Times and the New York Daily News have all published editorials opposing LG’s current plan and urging it to redesign its tower so it does not spoil the Palisades landscape.
Edward Goodell, Executive Director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference said, “We had hoped for a favorable court decision that would have preserved this singular landscape. We will continue our efforts to convince LG to redesign its building so it does not rise above the tree line. There is ample room on its 27-acre site to achieve that result, allowing the company to support the same number of jobs as under its current, high-rise design. Now, with the court’s disappointing decision, we have further work to do.”
A statement issued by the Protect the Palisades coalition noted, “Whether LG Electronics will destroy an American Landmark remains to be seen. Whatever state appeal courts decide, the court of public opinion offers LG every reason to rethink. By choosing a low-rise design which provides the same jobs and office space but also respects the Palisades and a century of preservation, LG can realize its hope to be a responsible corporate citizen and build consumer enthusiasm for its products.”
More information about the fight to halt the tower can be found at www.protectthepalisades.org