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Please, Barry, please admit that you were joking about the enormous shard of glass looming over the “gorgeous row of 5 story brick buildings” at 35 West 15th Street. (“35XV: The Invisible Building,” WVN, 9/15.) When you walked past them on the north side of 15th, you hardly noticed the “out of scale twenty-four story pyramid.” Of course you didn’t. As you admiringly reported, those mammoth twenty-four stories are set back. If you looked up you only saw the tops of the houses and Xavier High School. Try crossing the street.

I’d been curious about the project from the time I saw the construction site. When the exterior was completed I could hardly believe that the massive intrusion had been allowed by the powers that be. But this is New York, and 35XV (35 15th, get it?) is just another builder’s savvy use of air rights. From the adjacent Xavier high school in this case. A swap of air for the creation of an extension for the school in the bottom six condo floors, designated “community space.” A wise move since as the building was ballooning, so were the condo prices, from a hoped-for $1,500 per square foot to a $2,500 bonanza.

You wrote, Barry, that by setting the building back, “the impact is reduced, leaving the lightest touch on the street itself.” Was I wrong? Was my immediate horrified aversion to the behemoth on West 15th mistaken? I took my camera there, hoping to replicate your photo but failed because none of the surrounding buildings matched those in your shot. So I took other photos and had my initial impression reinforced. Of course that’s only one man’s camera’s opinion.

Fact check: Air rights swap. “In exchange for our constructing a new high school facility on the lower six floors of the building Xavier transferred to us the air rights.” http://www.alchemy-properties.com/35-west-15th-street.html
Square foot price. “Alchemy principal Gerry Davis tells us the 54 units will deliver in Q1 with 10 units left to sell. They’re going for $2,200/SF to $2,500/SF, well above the $1,500 the company banked on.” https://www.bisnow.com/archives/newsletter/new-york/2937-multifamily-monday-have-condo-prices-topped-out

I really was surprised when I got to 15th and 6th that I didn’t see any of the buildings in the foreground of Barry’s shot. I walked around the block and wherever 35XV was visible, still none of those older, lower structures. Perhaps because he shot from a higher vantage point?

 

Yours,

Bob Williams

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