“What preservation is really all about,” the critic Ada Louise Huxtable noted almost 50 years ago, “is the retention and active relationship of buildings of the past to the community’s functioning present.”
Translation: Good preservation doesn’t embalm history. It binds a living past to change. “The accumulation,” Mrs. Huxtable added, “is called culture.”
Replace buildings of the past with natural landmarks and you’ve got the LG story in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., which was resolved this week. For years, it looked as if that South Korean tech giant was hellbent on a new North American headquarters that would despoil a natural landmark. The building was to rise 143 feet — above the tree line of the neighboring Palisades Interstate Park, a National Natural Landmark.
LG’s 27-acre lot had plenty of room to substitute width for height, and it was zoned to protect views of the park. But with the backing of the mayor of Englewood Cliffs, construction trade unions and New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, a Republican, the company won a variance.
Opponents included four former governors of New Jersey; four mayors of nearby towns; four former United States ambassadors to South Korea; Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York; and more than a dozen conservation and environmental groups. Several organizations brought suit.
As Jim Dwyer wrote in The New York Times on Tuesday, the chairman of LG Group, Bon-Moo Koo, is a bird-watcher. Laurance Rockefeller, an environmental lawyer whose family gave much of the land for the park, appealed directly to him. Hawks and bald eagles fly along the Palisades Ridge. The chairman wrote to Mr. Rockefeller, “I assure you that I have great respect for your family’s passion for nature conservation and cultural heritage.” […]