Under a glass canopy, the Madison Avenue skyscraper reopens with a lush sanctuary of greenery

550 Madison Avenue is a historic office building that has been refurbished and relocated by the Olayan Group. Strollers in Midtown may flinch as they pass the building.

The tower’s block-long public arcade between East 55th and 56th streets, which had been shuttered for several years, reopened last week double the size of its dismal enclosed predecessor and redesigned with imaginative landscaping.

The Snohetta-designed, half-acre open-air urban garden is situated beneath a 70-foot-tall glass canopy. Taking influences from the High Line or Little Island, this park features 48 trees, 200 shrubs, 6,300 bulb plants, “10,000 herbaceous understory plants,” three food booths, and several seating areas. The rectilinear proportions of the arcade are softened by sinuous curves and varying heights.

The 41-story building is occupied by businesses such as Chubb, Hermes, and Corsair Capital.


Last week, a New York Times article on problems in the office-tower industry referenced the Kastle Back-to-Work Barometer’s drastically inaccurate estimate of New York City office occupancy below 50%.

Bill Rudin’s response that his buildings were 65 percent occupied was included in the story. But it overlooked the bigger context, as we have reported: Kastle only registers entry swipes at facilities where it provides security services. Few of the greatest real estate empires that own or manage the majority of the top buildings are included in their sample. They are home to a disproportionate number of financial and law firms, which employ more people than other types of businesses.

Kastle does not conduct headcounts at properties owned by SL Green, Vornado, Boston Properties, Brookfield, Rockefeller Group, Related Companies, Tishman Speyer, Silverstein Properties, or Rudin Management; nor at bank-owned headquarters towers such as JP Morgan Chase’s 383 Madison Avenue; nor at One World Trade Center, One Vanderbilt, or the Empire State Building.

Why do the media continue to regard Kastle’s statistics as gospel when their poll has so many glaring flaws?

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