Still time for LG to reconsider construction along Palisades

Linda Babeuf and Edward Goodell
The Record
Advocacy Issue: 
Protecting the Palisades

Note: This opinion piece was published in The Record on December 23, 2013


Linda Babeuf is president of the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs and Edward Goodell is executive director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

LG ELECTRONICS USA has been moving ahead quickly with its plan to construct a 143-foot-tall glass building in Englewood Cliffs adjacent to Palisades Interstate Park. The building would jut high above the tree line of the Palisades, in an area where other corporations, Unilever and CNBC among them, have long kept their buildings to the traditional 35-foot height, protecting the cliffs’ historic viewshed.

Though a lawsuit opposing the zoning actions that permitted the excessive height is still unsettled, the company heralded its intentions to go forward by holding a well-publicized groundbreaking ceremony in mid-November.

Perhaps LG and its soon-to-be-appointed new chief operating officer should pause for a moment to ponder the law of unintended consequences. It’s just possible that instead of being a corporate beacon, if this is what the firm’s executives have had in mind, the building could become something else – a permanent, conspicuous symbol of LG’s arrogance. It could turn out to be a constant reminder for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers; New Jerseyans; commuters on area highways, bridges and trains; and visitors to the parks and museums that line the Hudson of what has been lost, thanks to LG — even more so if the structure triggers additional development northward, as is almost certain.

To date, LG’s leaders have refused to heed the pleas of preservationists, major newspapers of New York and New Jersey, four former New Jersey governors, conservation and outdoor organizations in both states, and thousands of citizens to respect the grandeur of the cliffscape north of Fort Lee. Does LG not understand, or simply not care?

The company has never answered the question “Why so high?” Is it to grant its executives views of the Hudson and New York? To dominate the view of the cliffs as a glass billboard of sorts? As the framework for a neon-lighted logo?

Could we really see the beginning of the end of a majestic vista for such self-serving reasons? Others know what a treasure we have. The year 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of the designation of Palisades Interstate Park as a National Historic Landmark – one of New Jersey’s earliest sites to be honored with this highest federal landmark ranking. The current year marks the 30th anniversary of the cliffs’ designation as a National Natural Landmark for its uncommon and spectacular geologic features, formed 200 million years ago.

Just this fall the World Monument Fund included the Palisades on its annual Watch List of endangered cultural sites.

Because of its large 27-acre parcel, LG can still do what it should have done at the start: design its new campus to build low rather than high. There would be no loss of square footage for LG, jobs for New Jersey and tax revenue for Englewood Cliffs.

This alternative scenario presents the company and its new chief executive with a choice. LG can be honored as a conservation-minded corporate citizen, or risk being shunned as the spoiler of a precious remnant of wildness in our midst. It should reconsider and redesign.