One World Trade Center. Credit: Siriusly at Wikimedia Commons
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The world’s tallest residential building will be 1 foot shorter than One World Trade Center

Because otherwise the terrorists win.

Leaked plans for New York’s latest skyscraper, the Nordstrom Tower, offer a sneak peek into its intentions to set a few new records. It’ll have the tallest roof in the US, taking that title from Chicago’s Willis Tower. It’ll also be the tallest residential building in the world.

But on one front, it’s showing remarkable restraint. Drawings leaked to US website New York YIMBY show that the building’s total height, including the giant spire atop the roof, will be 1,775 feet. Just three miles away stands One World Trade Center, which stands at 1,776 feet.  

When you consider the fact that the Nordstrom Tower’s architects are Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, who previously designed Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, this lack of vertical ambition becomes a bit mysterious. Is it a sudden fear of heights, perhaps? An oversight? A miscalculation?

Actually, it’s an act of patriotism.

The height of One World Trade Center, which reflects the year the US declared independence from its British oppressors, was chosen as a statement of US freedom in the wake of 9/11; it thus follows that surpassing this height would be an insult to the tragedy’s victims. (The fact that the Nordstrom Tower’s 1,775 feet therefore represents an America still bound by British rule doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone.)

Plans make it clear that the spire will top out at 1775.0 feet. Credit: YIMBY

To be fair to Smith and Gill, a look back at the controversies surrounding the naming of One World Trade Center shows that they were probably right to be cautious. Its original name, the “Freedom Tower”, was axed by the Port Authority as they worried it would be “too political” for potential renters.

Fox News (who else?) accused them of being un-American. George Pataki, governor of New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks, told the New York Daily News that he, too, disapproved of the name change:

It shouldn’t just be, you know, One World Trade Center. It should have a name. And symbolising 1776 and showing the world that we weren’t going to be frightened in the face of these attacks... it all logically came together that the perfect name for this is the Freedom Tower.”

And in case you were wondering, yes, he is directly comparing the British colonial period with the terrorist attacks. Go figure.

The new tower, which will be located on West 27th Street, is named after its owner, the department store Nordstrom’s. It’ll contain a seven floor flagship Nordstrom’s store as well as a hotel and apartments. No concern about names that are “driven by commercial interests” here, then. 

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We'll be launching its website soon – in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.