Jewish investor Bill Ackman’s New York penthouse draws ire from neighbors

Neighbors oppose the two-story glass pavilion that hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and his wife, Israeli-born architect and designer Neri Oxman, want to build on the roof of their apartment building on West 77th Street in Manhattan. .

The dispute has attracted some high-powered neighbors and advocates on both sides, including legendary PBS journalist Bill Moyers (he is against) and a small “Who’s Who” of prominent Jewish New Yorkers, according to The New York Times.

Columnist Gina Bellafante reports that the dispute is not about historic architecture, sunlight, or other similar flash points in New York City zoning disputes. It’s really about what the city will do, if anything, to limit the growing power of its billionaire class. A three-hour debate on the proposal in the Historic Monuments Preservation Commission, Bellafante wrote, was “about where the retaining wall should be erected against the wishes of the magnificently rich to shape the world precisely to their specifications.”

Ackman made a huge windfall in March 2020 by betting that COVID would collapse the economy. Oxman, born in Haifa and a professor at MIT, has received high praise for her pioneering work in fusing principles of nature and sustainability in her designs. The couple, who were introduced by Marty Peretz, former editor of The New Republic and co-founder of, were married in Central Synagogue in January 2019. Ackman has donated large sums of money to a variety of Jewish causes, since Center. from Jewish History to Birthright.

Lower East Side, Manhattan (credit: Aleks Marinkovic / Unsplash)

Among his supporters at the Historic Monuments Preservation Committee meeting were many prominent Jews, including the architectural critic Paul Goldberger; Louise Mirrer, president of the New York Historical Society and expert on medieval Spanish Jewry; and Betsy Gotbaum, former president of the New York City Public Defender and Historical Society from 2002 to 2009. The former owner of the property was media executive Norman Pearlstine.

The dispute is played out against the media and public’s obsession with billionaires and their spending, including but not limited to the HBO series “Succession,” the recent self-funded trips to outer space by Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, and the Congressional debates about raising taxes on the very rich. Manhattan, where “super-all” new luxury apartment buildings are changing the landscape, is at the center of the discussion.

As reported by Bellafante, the city’s monuments commission asked Ackman and his architect, British “star architect” Norman Foster, to come up with a new plan for the rooftop pavilion with a smaller second story.

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