미 연방환경청, LG전자에 일격 - '조망권막는 사옥신축 절대 용납못한다' 11일 입장전달
EPA reverses support for LG tower in Englewood Cliffs
Supporters of LG Electronics’ plans for a new North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs said Saturday they were undeterred by news that the Environmental Protection Agency had reversed itself and was now critical of the 143-foot height of the proposed building.
“The Palisades is a unique and treasured part of New Jersey that has been protected for generations,” the federal agency’s regional administrator, Judith Enck, wrote in a letter to the company last week. “This viewshed is so important that the adverse impacts of construction of a high-rise building cannot be condoned.”
Among the project’s supporters, the mayor of Englewood Cliffs reacted with frustration and anger Saturday to Enck’s letter, in which she said the agency would withdraw from a voluntary environmental agreement with the company.
“If the EPA wants to back out, fine — we don’t need their memorandum of understanding,” said Mayor Joseph Parisi Jr., who has touted the benefits of the headquarters project for borough tax revenues as well as the regional economy.
The letter marks the second public-relations setback for the project this month, coming within weeks of a call by four former governors for the company to lower the height of the building.
The reversal by the EPA is stark. In the agreement it signed with LG in December, the agency had touted the fact that the project’s eight-story design would cover only 9.5 acres of LG’s existing 27-acre campus on Sylvan Avenue, and “includes substantial open space and green buffers along its borders … to provide a large physical separation from nearby residences and other structures.”
But in her letter to LG last week, Enck said during their development of the agreement, the company had not made clear to the EPA “the implications that the proposed design height of the Englewood Cliffs building would have on the protection of the natural beauty of the Palisades,” and noted that the company secured a height variance after the memorandum was signed. The height of the eight-story building would far exceed the borough’s regular 35-foot limit.
The letter shows that, in recent conversations with LG, Enck had asked that the LG building be redesigned to a height below the tree line. “This change in design would incorporate the basic sustainability principle of protecting the natural surroundings,” she wrote.
A wide array of opponents on both sides of the Hudson River have complained that the building would mar the pristine landscape of the Palisades — including conservation and preservation groups with ties to Larry Rockefeller, whose family spearheaded the Palisades preservation effort more than a century ago, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose Cloisters medieval garden and exhibit space in Manhattan sits directly across the Hudson from the site.
“We think the decision speaks for itself,” Harold Holzer, a spokesman at the Met, said Saturday about the EPA’s action.
The EPA’s decision to withdraw from its environmental sustainability agreement on the headquarters building will have no direct impact on whether the project gets built. But it builds on another very public black eye the proposal took earlier this month.
In early June, four former New Jersey governors — Democrats Brendan T. Byrne and Jim Florio, as well as Republicans Thomas H. Kean and Christie Whitman — sent a letter asking that the South Korean-based LG Electronics redesign its headquarter plans by filling more of its campus with low-rise buildings. The governors had been recruited by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, a land-preservation group. Enck cited the former governors’ opposition in her own letter to LG.
A representative of the company did not respond to a request for comment Saturday. But last week LG reasserted its commitment to the original 143-foot-high design, while announcing that talks aimed at finding an alternative ended without an agreement.
In a statement, LG blamed the breakdown on the opponents’ failure to abide by an agreement to avoid publicly discussing the project. The talks had been ordered by a judge to try to settle lawsuits filed by project opponents, who claimed the borough failed to follow state and local guidelines when it approved the height variance and the project. The case will now be returned to Superior Court Judge Alexander Carver, who could rule later this summer.
Parisi said LG has tried to work out a compromise, but that the other side has not shown a similar willingness.
Parisi favors the $300 million project because it will create temporary construction jobs, expand LG’s permanent workforce in the borough by 450 and add $1.3 million in tax revenue.
“A majority of people in this region still want this project because they know how good it will be economically and for the environment,” he said. “Despite what the outsiders say, it will be good for the entire region, including all those who oppose it.
“I’m very disappointed in some people — the four former governors have nothing to do with this project,” he added. “Who’s pulling whose strings? The EPA decides this is controversial because of Rockefeller and the four governors?
“LG has not threatened to move, but if they do, I’m going to point fingers at a lot of people who brought that on,” Parisi said. “When LG moves out, who is going to pay the damages incurred to Englewood Cliffs?”
The project also retains support from Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan. “She continues to support it because of the construction jobs and permanent jobs that would be created, and because LG is a good company that wants to work with the community by providing various educational programs on the site,” Jeanne Baratta, Donovan’s chief of staff, said Saturday.
The environmental sustainability agreement between LG and the EPA was strictly voluntary, and either side was free to withdraw at any time. The EPA’s memorandum encompasses more than a dozen other LG buildings, and that will remain in effect.
The EPA had drawn up similar agreements with other major companies in the region, including Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial property and real estate firm. The EPA signed agreements with the Mets when the team was building Citi Field, and with the Giants and Jets when they built MetLife Stadium.
Such an agreement with the EPA carries added value for LG, because it meshes with a public image the company has developed as being at the forefront of sustainability and environmental sensitivity. The company’s many subsidiaries are involved in everything from solar panels to battery technology for electric vehicles.
As part of the agreement, LG committed to a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions for its U.S. operations by 2020, as well as an 85,000-square-foot solar array system at its headquarters facility.
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