Defending conservation can be good for everyone involved. When LG Electronics agreed to lower the height of its proposed new American headquarters along the Hudson River for “a greater good,” conservation groups in Palisades, New York agreed to settle their lawsuit and join forces with LG to assist in moving the project forward quickly.
For decades, planning and zoning boards around the Palisades had agreed that buildings could not be more than 35 feet high so as not to destroy the natural vista. However, LG obtained a variance more than four times the height of the zoning and planned a 143 foot tower — several stories above the tree line — which would destroy the natural landscape and pave the way for more towers shadowing the cliffs.
Scenic Hudson was the leading plaintiff-intervenor in the lawsuit challenging the zoning approvals. Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, said, “By partnering in this win-win settlement that preserves the majesty of the Palisades while meeting its business needs, LG has demonstrated its commitment to cooperating with stakeholders to protect the environment. The beauty of the Palisades will now continue to be a source of inspiration for generations to come.”
New Jersey Conservation Foundation joined the fight on their side of the river and enlisted the aid of four former governors, Brendan Byrne, James Florio, Thomas Kean and Christine Todd Whitman who advocated for that win-win resolution. The voices of the governors, when added to the grassroots opposition, made for a powerful groundswell of public opinion. Upon hearing that resolution had been achieved they commented:
“We commend LG Electronics for dramatically reducing the height of its new headquarters to preserve the iconic vista of New Jersey’s Palisades. Two years ago, we wrote to Bon-Joon Koo, CEO of LG Electronics, asking for a resolution that would accommodate the company’s need for a new headquarters while ensuring the beauty and integrity of the Palisades ridgeline and park. LG listened and this week’s agreement demonstrates that a strong economy goes hand-in-hand with strong environmental protection. With the construction of the new sustainable, low-rise LG headquarters, New Jersey will retain a solid corporate partner along with much needed jobs and tax revenues. And one of America’s most visible natural and historic landmarks will be protected for future generations."
In addition, over 12 land trusts from across the country joined together in a letter to LG requesting the company to develop a redesigned low rise headquarters that would ensure the integrity of the Palisades.
The new building design, reflecting compromises by all the parties, calls for a five-story north wing just shy of 70 feet in height and a three-story south wing, protecting the scenic views of the Palisades. “The new design, which results in an outstanding new headquarters for LG, will help preserve the Palisades as a treasured national landmark,” said Laurance Rockefeller. Rockefeller, an environmental lawyer whose family donated the land that became the basis for the Palisades Interstate Park 80 years ago, was a leading participant in the discussions, along with representatives of five conservation groups.
The five conservation groups (Scenic Hudson, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference) agreed to withdraw their pending legal appeal of the zoning approvals in Englewood Cliffs and pledged to work with LG to secure necessary municipal approvals so the project can move forward as quickly as possible.
The Palisades are a national treasure and have the rare distinction of dual landmark status; designated as a National Natural and Historic Landmark. The cliffs, rising dramatically from the Hudson River, have inspired generations of New Jerseyans and New Yorkers to protect them for future generations. The Palisades Park Commission was established in 1900 to ensure that the park and environs would be protected. Today the Palisades north of George Washington Bridge offer a panoramic vista of natural beauty that hundreds of thousands of travelers and residents in both New Jersey and New York City can enjoy daily.
Previously, it looked like compromise and settlement would never happen between the two groups. But at the announcement of the settlement, Rockefeller said of LG, “We now become best allies and we team up to protect the Palisades going forward.”
Michele Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation has committed her organizations efforts to permanently protect the Palisades, “We need to ensure that this national landmark is protected in perpetuity,” she said. “American landmarks are not replaceable, they belong to all of us and to our children”.