The new Steinway Tower is being compared by locals to a coffee stirrer. (edit by Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

Space travel may be the newest status symbol for the wealthy elite, but possibilities have opened up for people not quite mega-rich enough to put their money all the way into the outer stratosphere. Luckily, the very rich can still waste tremendous amounts of resources to get pretty high in the air by moving into the new, extremely skinny skyscraper now open at 111 West 57th Street in New York City.

Steinway Tower is already stirring up controversy: According to the Guardian, some locals are comparing it to a giant coffee stirrer, and the 1,428-foot-high structure has somehow managed to fit only 46 units over its 84 stories (or 60 if you include the renovations of historic Steinway Hall at its base). Built at a stunning 24:1 height-to-width ratio, it is now the third-tallest building in New York City, and a living monument to can-we-do-it instead of should-we-do-it.

Units have already been available for move-in within Steinway Hall, the landmarked portion of the project, but now with architecture complete, the development has reached another milestone and is ready to court tower residents. Construction on the building began in 2013, led by JDS Development Group, Property Markets Group, and Spruce Capital Partners and designed by New York architecture firm SHoP Architects, which characterizes itself as “innovators, craftspeople, and problem-solvers” on their website. It is unclear what problems are solved by Steinway Tower, other than serving as an answer to the question, “What is that tall skinny thing in the middle of my park view?” or potentially offering visitors and everyday New Yorkers the chance to experience extreme vertigo while squinting up at its lofty triple-penthouse pitched precariously in the sky.

Pencil towers, as the style is known, are a common feature of the Hong Kong skyline, and as New York continues to court as much unnecessary and high-end glass tower architecture as possible, it makes perfect sense that someone decided to plant one in the dead center of Manhattan.

“Any preconceived notions that our team had about skyscrapers of New York City developments were replaced with an opportunity to do something that had never been done before,” Gregg Pasquarelli, principal at SHoP Architects, told CNN. But as many New Yorkers are pointing out, just because it’s never been done before doesn’t mean it needs to happen now.

“It’s an income inequality graph in built form,” said Instagram user @carlburdick, commenting on a post on the popular architecture meme account @dank.lloyd.wright. And he’s not wrong: The most expensive apartment in the tower is on the market for some $66.4 million. (But the cheapest is a much more reasonable $7.8 million, so really a variety of patrons with outrageous wealth can be accommodated.)

Aesthetics and inequities aside, others have concerns about the tower’s tendency to sway in high winds. According to the Guardian’s tongue-in-cheek reporting, the “upper floors have a tendency to whip around by a few feet whenever the wind gets up.”

Addressing the swaying, a spokesperson told Hyperallergic that the building “incorporates the highest strength concrete in the world at 14,000 psi, paired with over 5.5 million feet of rebar.” A “large mechanical penthouse houses an 800-ton tuned mass damper to minimize the movement and vibrations of the tower,” he added.

But proprietors at 111 57th Street shouldn’t worry; they should just reframe the light swaying of these luxury homes as the perfect environment for the ultra-wealthy to acclimate to the null-gravity conditions of space travel. If you can’t handle a little nausea here on Earth, you can’t go to space — and everyone who is anyone is going to space, darling.

Meanwhile, the rest of us here on Earth can use Steinway Tower to practice being nauseated without putting a single dollar down!

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...

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