New York art school hopes controversial £19m deal with developers of Extell Building will safeguard its existence for generations

It will be taller than the Empire State and will tower over the Art Students League's 'cherished old studio' - and some of its members aren't happy

New York

The Art Students League of New York art school has led a charmed and magical life – it is a modest 1892 architectural jewel for working artists amid the soaring corporate skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan.

The League has nurtured many famous artists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Georgia O'Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, George Bellows, Cy Twombly, George Grosz and Roy Lichtenstein. And in a city where a studio can cost thousands of dollars a month in rent, artists can work at the League for a fraction of that cost and have access to models, space and teachers.

It is, in short, an artist's dream: affordable studio space and classes coupled with unrivalled camaraderie and membership of an institution with an international reputation just steps from Central Park.

However, all is not well at the League, and it is the institution's location – in the middle of some of the world's most expensive property – that is causing discord. The League's brownstone base in 57th Street is just a few storeys high, and is protected by New York's landmark preservation regulations. But what is built around it is another matter.

There are plans to erect one of the tallest buildings in the world next door, which will make the Art Students League look like a Victorian doll's house. At 1,423ft, (433.7m) the Extell Building will be taller than the Empire State Building and just 60ft shorter than the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The League hopes to pocket $31.8m (£19.3m) from the Extell developers in return for allowing them to add a huge cantilever of apartments that would stick out 30ft to the side of their tower and hang over the League from 30 storeys above.

The League calls the deal a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" that will safeguard its existence for generations, allowing it to keep tuition fees low, improve and modernise. However, a growing number of League members are trying to delay the 12 February vote on the deal. They claim that the League is rushing members into something they may regret. Sceptics want more time to weigh up the proposals and consider any possible danger to the League's building or its members during the five-year building period and after the tower is completed.

"The blind faith in our board from some of the members I've known for years is maybe the most maddening aspect of this," said Robert Holden, a League life member. "Our cherished old studio building... is falling apart. Wait till Extell starts blasting."

However, some League instructors and members have already voted for the deal. "The financial benefits from this agreement will preserve the League and its traditions," wrote board president Salvatore Barbieri and executive director Ira Goldberg in a 46-page glossy brochure urging members to "Vote Yes For 31.8 Million Dollars".

League members cannot stop the tower going up, but they could block the overhanging cantilever or force more analysis of the plan. "The League is too beautiful and too venerable to be messed with like this," said member Beth Karts. "Some things in this world, like the League, are worth a lot more than money."

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all