New tower near Empire State Building gets OK

New York City council has approved a plan to build a 67-storey skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, just two blocks from the Empire State Building.

Skyscraper issue adds to mosque controversy

This artist's rendering shows the proposed 15 Penn Plaza centre, a 67-storey tower in midtown Manhattan, just 10 metres shorter than New York's iconic Empire State Building at left. ((Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects/Associated Press))

New York City council has approved a plan to build a 67-storey skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, just two blocks from the Empire State Building.

The council approved zoning and land-use changes Wednesday that pave the way for the 15 Penn Plaza project, despite objections from the co-owner of the Empire State Building.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, and the fall of the World Trade Center's twin towers, the Empire State Building has been New York City's tallest building.

Anthony Malkin, part-owner of the iconic building, has said the tower would obstruct the views of — and from — his building.

"The more people learn about this, the more they don't like it," Malkin said.

However, the new tower would create jobs in beleaguered midtown Manhattan. The project's developer, David Greenbaum, said people opposed to the project should have spoken up sooner.

"The notion that this is now being raised after it was fully vetted ... we don't understand the argument," Greenbaum said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has expressed support for the new skyscraper, which is still in the planning stage.

Mayor backs proposed mosque

New York is also wrestling with another building controversy over the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural centre and mosque near Ground Zero.

Bloomberg offered more backing for the proposed Islamic centre and mosque this week.

Speaking Tuesday at a dinner to mark the breaking of the daily fast during Ramadan, Bloomberg said blocking the mosque would be "compromising our commitment to fighting terror with freedom."

He added: "We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting."

Finding a new location for the proposed centre and mosque isn't a solution, he said. "There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it, too, be moved?"

The planned mosque and Islamic centre also got another boost Wednesday when representatives from more than 40 civic and religious organizations hosted a rally in support of the project at a municipal building near Ground Zero.

The head of advocacy group Common Cause New York, Susan Lerner, said the controversy over the Islamic centre was triggered by "irresponsible politicians" using it as an election issue.

With files from The Associated Press