A line of steep basalt cliffs runs approximately 20 miles along the west side of the Hudson River from Jersey City to near Nyack, New York. Rising between 300 and 540 feet above the river’s edge, the Palisades are one of the most dramatic geological features in the region.
In 1890s, they were being actively quarried when the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs stepped in to stop it. A movement, The Federation, led to save the cliffs resulted, in 1900, in the creation of the Palisades Park Commission, which began to buy out the quarry operators. In the 1930s, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated 2500 acres atop the cliffs to the park, and in 1937, Congress created the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, a bi-state agency. No further challenge appeared until 1962, when the Marriott Corporation proposed a high-rise tower on the cliffs, but it was blocked by litigation instigated by the Federation of Women’s Clubs.
The current threat to this regional treasure emerged in 2012, when LG Electronics, a South-Korea based manufacturer of consumer goods, proposed a 143-foot high office tower that would loom over the Palisades. When the Englewood Cliffs zoning board granted the project a variance, the Federation of Women’s Clubs came to the Palisades’ defense again, arguing that horizontal designs were available to LG that would give it the same amount of office space as the tower, while respecting the integrity of the cliffs. The first legal round went to LG, however, when a Superior Court judge upheld the zoning board. The appeal, on which the Federation has been joined by the NY-NJ Trails Conference and other groups, argues that the court failed to adequately consider the impact of the proposed tower on the Palisades, which in 2013 was named to the World Monuments Fund’s biennial list of endangered sites.
Approximately 30 years ago the Palisades became both a National Natural Landmark and a National Historical Landmark, a rare dual designation, granted, in part, because the efforts of the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs to protect this extraordinary natural feature were so remarkable. PNJ can barely believe that a defining feature of the region such as this would even be in this predicament, particularly when alternatives exist. We urge LG Electronics to go back to the drawing board. We think the Courts must understand the significance of the Palisades to the lower Hudson Valley, and hope the friends of the Palisades will make as much noise as they can. We also think that all of us should keep the Palisades in mind when shopping for new appliances.
November 2015: LG Electronics redesigned their headquarters to lower the height to less than 70 feet and instituted other measures to make the site more environmentally friendly and satisfying the concerns of local officials, and environmental and preservation groups.