By Michele S. Byers
For 200 million years, the Palisades have stood majestically over the Hudson River. These nearly vertical cliffs carved by erosion have inspired artists for centuries. In 1983, they were designated a National Natural Landmark.
But a day may come – and soon – when the only unspoiled views of the Palisades are found in art museums.
LG Electronics USA, a South Korean manufacturer of appliances and home electronics, has proposed to build a 143-foot office high-rise in the Borough of Englewood Cliffs, one of several Bergen County towns along the Palisades’ 20-mile length.
Englewood Cliffs officials granted a variance in early 2012 to waive their 35-foot height limit and, later that year, changed the zoning to permit a high-rise of up to 150 feet on the LG Electronics property.
The proposal has riled communities on both sides of the Hudson that are concerned that the LG tower’s presence would undermine more than a century of preservation efforts.
Saving the Palisades has been a cause célèbre since the late 1800s when threats from quarries and advertising on the cliffs prompted John D. Rockefeller Sr. and other powerful New Yorkers of the day to purchase and donate land to the newly formed Palisades Interstate Park Commission.
Generations later, Rockefeller family members are involved in the new battle to save the Palisades.
Environmental lawyer Larry Rockefeller, a trustee with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), recently met with LG officials to ask them to consider a less obtrusive alternative.
The electronics giant didn’t seem willing to budge, and NRDC has launched an online campaign aimed at compelling LG to reconsider. Opponents claim LG has plenty of land for an office complex that doesn’t pierce the tree line.
But ultimately the decision may rest with the courts.
The nonprofit Scenic Hudson, other interest groups and two residents of Englewood Cliffs have filed a lawsuit claiming the zoning amendment is illegal “spot zoning” to benefit a single developer.
The joint lawsuit calls the iconic
vistas of the Palisades “one of the most beautiful and one of the most unspoiled landscapes in America, celebrated by the art of two centuries, preserved by bipartisan leadership across state lines and enjoyed by millions.”
Let’s hope that reason – and a realization that the Palisades is indeed a unique, irreplaceable treasure – will prevail. Once the landscape and vista are destroyed, they’re gone forever.
For more information about the efforts to save the Palisades, visit the Scenic Hudson website at www.scenic hudson.org/news/article/scenic-hudson-pressures-lg-preserve-iconic-palisades-views/2013-01-30 and the Protect the Palisades Coalition website at www.protectthepalisades.org.
To sign an online petition urging LG to redesign its office plans, go to the NRDC website at www.savebiogems. org/action-center.
And to learn more about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.