Why LG Should Reconsider Height of New HQ

Why LG Should Reconsider Height of New HQ
The Palisades - Photo by Anthony Taranto
Carol A. Hoernlein P.E.


Recently I had the honor of meeting a lady, a true lady in every sense of the word, who opened my mind. It was near Christmas time, and I and my husband were invited to a concert given by Florence and her son that changed my world view. Tiny and frail, her heart and her mind are as expansive as the planet itself.  She spends her days bringing people from all over the world together to speak the universal language of music.  The theme of the concert that night was Pangea and the music was specifically written and played to celebrate the concept and the reality that was Pangea, the original continent that once contained all the others.

Why would Pangea figure into a column about the Palisades and a proposed new office tower?  Because the Palisades are the most visible reminder to the world of exactly happened when the continents split apart, like the way families often do, scattered to the four winds or four corners of the world.

Geography/Geology Lesson - How the Palisades Formed

It’s a very simple fact. The Palisades may never have formed without the epic movement of the continents away from each other during the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea.  Here is how it happened

At one point in time, all the continents were connected in one landmass known as Pangea.  Due to movements of the tectonic plates underneath Pangea, what is now the East Coast of the United States and now the West Coast of Africa gradually started to rip apart.  Before that split and the formation of the Atlantic Ocean as we know it, what is now the top of the Palisades was lower, below sea level.  The land was covered with the sediments you find on the bottom of a seabed.  As Africa slowly separated from what is now New York and New Jersey, a thin 40 mile-long rip tore open, and molten rock rushed up to fill it. However, the rock did a funny thing, instead of erupting up and outward above the ground surface like a volcano, it went sideways, about 6 miles wide, and up to 1000 ft thick, in what is now known as the Palisades sill. It became a rock sandwich.  The diabase Palisades rock, when it cooled, was layered in between the sandstone layers that had been at the bottom of the sea.

But Pangea wasn’t finished shaping the Palisades sill.  The cooled sandwich was still flat. The earth gave one last heave at the eastern side of the sill and lifted the entire slab that is the Palisades between 17 to 20 degrees up.  You can actually see the bottom of the sandwich still in red layers of sandstone visible in the Palisades Interstate Park at Alpine Boat basin.  The western edge of the sill is roughly where the Tenakill Brook winds through Tenafly and Englewood.

Once the sill was formed, and tilted, natural erosion and the movement of the glaciers wiped the sill off and removed the sand sediment layer on top, exposing the diabase underneath. As the glacier moved, it carried little pieces of the Palisades rock along the way, called glacial erratics. These lonely outcasts can be found scattered throughout the Hudson Valley after the glacier melted leaving them behind.  What is now the Hudson River further shaped the natural edge we see that is the eastern face of the sill.  This edge has an intriguing appearance because when Palisades rock naturally breaks, it forms columns which, when rain gets into the cracks and freezes, creates more rockfalls and moves the cliff face inexorably and permanently forever westward, creating more pillars and crevices.  The result is a stockade fence appearance.  The name of the town of Weehawkin, also located on the Palisades sill was named by the Lenape. It means “Rocks that Look Like Trees”.

That last tilt created what is now known as the East Hill in Englewood and Tenafly and contains the entire towns of Englewood Cliffs, Alpine, and Fort Lee.  These towns are not merely near the Palisades, they are directly ON the Palisades sill which is why we use that curious way to describe things here. ON the Palisades means that you can barely scratch the surface of the ground anywhere in Englewood Cliffs or Fort Lee and hit bedrock – the Palisades diabase sill. Let me repeat:  the entire town of Englewood Cliffs, including where they want to build the LG HQ  is ON the Palisades.  The LG building is proposed  just 150 ft from the Palisades Interstate Park and just over 700 feet from the cliff edge.  Today anyway.  (Remember, that distance will shrink.)  A homeowner who wants a home theater in their basement, or  LG who wants to dig down, eventually discover the hard way (no pun intended) that if  they want a basement, they need dynamite. And what they will be blasting will be Palisades rock.


The claim by LG that the building will barely “peek” above the treeline is disingenuous. 143 ft tall and 80 ft higher than the treeline is not “peeking”.  It is virtually shouting its presence.  Right now, north of the George Washington Bridge from the public parks like the Cloisters and Wave Hill on the New York side no buildings are higher than the tree line.  This would be the first.  The argument that the building is not a “tower” due solely to its shape, although it will still tower over the landscape is just plain silly. 

The claim that the building is over a ¼ mile from the Palisades is the most egregious lie of all.  Not only will the proposed LG building be ON the Palisades sill, the building is only 150 feet from the Palisades Interstate Park and a mere 700 feet from the cliff edge.  See the additional aerial image below.  It will absolutely be on Palisades rock and much closer to the edge than LG says it will be. You can also see how much more room they have to work with. In other words, the building did not need to be that high, they simply wanted the view.

The claim that jobs are at stake is disingenuous as well, because jobs will still be needed to build a shorter building. Has LG actually promised the labor unions (in writing) they will actually use Union labor to build this, and that they will pay union scale?  If they did, will they follow through in those promises, once the labor union has been used for intimidating the public at the Englewood Cliffs hearing to change the Master Plan to allow more 150 foot buildings on April 30? The fact that LG is consolidating locations also means that the new employees will be the same old employees, simply relocated, not mostly new jobs. 

The fact that The County Executive and the Freeholder Board (who are scared of the labor union) are the only ones for it as well as the Mayor of Englewood Cliffs who want to be a hero for lowering what is already one of the lowest property taxes in the state, is not enough.

The claim that only a few New Yorkers are complaining is also false.  Six local New Jersey Mayors have signed a letter opposing the height of the new LG HQ,  four former NJ Governors - two Republicans and two Democrats, the initial Englewood Cliffs residents who filed a lawsuit against LG because of the height, and nearly every environmental group in the tri-state area as well as the National Park Service, because the building would deface both a National Historic Landmark and a National Natural Landmark as well as an officially designated Scenic Byway - the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Every major newspaper in New Jersey has an editorial blasting the height as well.

The Trillion Dollar Mile is Not Hurting

The argument that Englewood Cliffs is hurting for the economic input is absurd.  The Trillion Dollar Mile sign on 9W says it all.  This area is not a backwater in a rural community nowhere near commerce. It is a few miles outside NYC where many folks here work.  The town itself is home to CNBC headquarters. CNBC – let that sink in. The homes often boast elaborate stonework, enormous foyers, incredible landscaping designed by hired gardeners, and fully decked out private home theaters.  The residents who live in Englewood Cliffs are more likely to be Wall Street hedge fund managers or CEOS who vacation on the Vineyard, rather than day laborers. The jobs argument falls flat to anyone who has actually driven through Englewood Cliffs or lives next door.  The median income in 2008 was reported to be $134,000.  Hence the understandable outrage of the surrounding Mayors who are unmoved by the jobs argument, which if true, would also benefit them.

Neighbors in the Dark

LG demanded no public discussion of what they were up to while in negotiations with the opposition.   Now they point to the fact that hearings were held even though there was a virtual gag order on the opposition and it was reasonable for most citizens to expect that the 35 ft height ordinance would be respected. And at one hearing in particular the Planning Board did not even allow public comment, which is against the NJ Open Public Meetings Act.  Currently, the April 30 hearing is being hushed up and is not even mentioned on the town website or calendar. When you call the town, they can’t even tell you where the meeting will be.  The Borough, which has the audacity to boast the Palisades landscape on its website, is not being forthright. Most Englewood Cliffs residents may not even be aware the Mayor and his Land Use Board are about to change their Master Plan to allow skyscrapers on the East side of 9W.

Former NJ Governors Speak Out

Former Governor Christie Todd Whitman explained on the Brian Lehrer show quite eloquently last week why we want to preserve views of this magnificent and unique geologic formation and beautiful history book for the entire world.  The LG response was simply that they were in a hurry to ruin the view for everyone else.


A masterpiece that took eons to shape is worth spending  a fraction more time to protect. There is still time for LG to do the right thing and become the hero rather than the villain here.  They will earn the respect of the world if they respect the world in turn.

The International Community Matters

Right now, LG is infamously bringing the world together again, in the spirit of Pangea.  It is uniting the world in opposition to their selfish plan to take in beautiful views at the expense of the rest of the world. As an international company, it is tragic, and thoughtless, that they would for their own ends, deface the most visible unspoiled evidence that reminds humans around the earth that we were all once one family.

Carol Hoernlein is a licensed Water Resources Civil Engineer practicing in Northern NJ. In 2007, she became known statewide in N.J. as an elected official/political blogger by raising awareness of N.J. political corruption not being covered by the local press. Before switching careers, Ms. Hoernlein studied Food Science and Agricultural Engineering at Rutgers and worked as a Research & Development food process engineer.
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