Led by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other celebrities, more than 800 demonstrators simultaneously opened their black umbrellas in New York’s Central Park on October 18, 1987 at 1:30. You can see below that the umbrellas created a shadow–the same shadow that two new office towers, if built, would have cast on the park.
Successfully proclaiming our right to sunlight, Ms. Onassis and her friends got a scaled down Time Warner Center.
Where are we going? To the tug-of-war between property rights and sunlight.
Michael Kwartler is a shadow expert, As the go-to man for NYC agencies, for developers, for anyone concerned with the shadow a structure could cast, he would tell you that 90 minutes before sunset on December 21, the shadow of a NYC building can extend 4.2 times its height in a northeasterly direction. Mr. Kwartler would also tell you that pencil buildings are the newest concern for shadow worriers. Tall and slender, these buildings have magnificent views and perhaps one apartment on a floor. Discussing the shadows of such slender skyscrapers, architectural writer Paul Goldberger predicts that the southern tip of Central Park will be striped.
These are some new pencil buildings:
The shadow fight takes us back to the English common law and the right of a property owner to protect her sunlight. In the U.S. though, the courts favored development over sunlight and rejected a broad property rights interpretation.
Is the shadow (below) cast by One57 (described above) an ancient lights violation?
Our Bottom Line: Property Rights
Illustrating that property rights extend beyond the building itself, a developer reputedly paid $54.9 million dollars for the air rights above Manhattan’s Art Students League building.
Like Ms. Onassis and her Central Park friends, we can ask whether our property rights will be violated by the shadow from the structure.