4. One Vanderbilt

Top of One Vanderbilt, one of the tallest New York skyscrapers
Photo by Max Touhey.

One Vanderbilt is a 77-story New York skyscraper at the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. The skyscraper’s roof is 1,301 feet high and its spire is 1,401 feet above ground. Kohn Pedersen Fox designed the building to harmonize with the nearby Grand Central Terminal, with a facade made mostly of glass panels with terracotta spandrels. The tower narrows as it rises, and its base contains a wedge-shaped void. Although most of the building is office space, the second floor contains Daniel Boulud’s new restaurant Le Pavillon, while its observation deck called Summit opened on October 21, 2021. Five buildings were taken down so that One Vanderbilt could be built, including a popular coffee shop.

New York City’s zoning rules are based on FAR (floor area ratio), and the designated rules in Midtown at the time of planning would have permitted a maximum massing reaching only around 600 feet in height for One Vanderbilt. However, developer SL Green owned the Bowery Savings Bank on 42nd Street, home to Cipriani. The 1961 Landmarks Preservation Law allows the transfer of air rights not just adjacent to a building but up to several blocks away, meaning that One Vanderbilt gained 100 feet by the transfer of air rights from the landmarked Bowery Savings Bank about half a block away. Mayor Bill De Blasio’s administration agreed in 2015 to rezone five blocks on Vanderbilt Avenue that allowed SL Green to add another 700 feet to the giant tower. The agreement required SL Green to aid the MTA by spending $220 million for transportation improvements around One Vanderbilt and Grand Central Terminal, including the restoration of a long-closed passageway.