simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Zeckendorf
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Saturday, 8 September 2007


Real estate developers along with architects define the look of a city and the empire and legacy of William Zeckendorf Sr. (1905-1976), his son William Jr. and grandsons Arthur and William Lie continue to endure and impact New York. These are the Zeckendorf condominiums (read about them here) at One Irving Place, as seen from Union Square in the evening with the Con Ed tower - see my posting about Union Square here. I have photographed these Towers before for this website but I have not shown all four in one photo. Real estate developers are typically not seen in a very positive light by the average citizen; rather, they are resented by many for their wealth and the power they have over the primary assets of a city - the land and buildings themselves. However, they are absolutely necessary to the city's infrastructure, growth and reconstruction and when there is a good design aesthetic and sensitivity to appropriate architecture, they can be a force for the good. William Zeckendorf, Sr. is considered one of America's foremost developers and has worked with architects I.M. Pei and Le Corbusier. He is credited with projects which were seminal in the redevelopment of troubled areas such as these towers in Union Square and the Columbia at 96th Street on the Upper West Side. His most notable transaction was taking an option on 17 acres along the East River to build a dream city. Unable to exercise his option, and seeing the city about to lose the United Nations because it was unable to find a location for it, Zeckendorf called Mayor William O’Dwyer, who persuaded Rockefeller to buy the land for $8.5 million and then donate it to the U.N. In 1965, his company Webb & Knapp, collapsed and went in to bankruptcy. The family business was rebuilt with William Jr. at the helm. Style and personality also play a factor in the public's view of a real estate mogul. Donald Trump, for example, is seen by many as a pompous, arrogant, egotistical media hound with a celebrity lifestyle surrounded by supermodels. Combine that with buildings known for their veneer and one could understand why architecture critic Paul Goldberger once referred to his work as the "triumph of image over substance" ...


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