Sway with me

How luxury tower builders keep residents from feeling seasick when the wind blows

Kitchens at Madison Square Park Tower feature Molteni cabinetry, Sub-Zero and Miele appliances, Waterworks fixtures and Nanz hardware.

It’s perfectly common practice for proud developers — once their treasured new building is close to completion — to throw open their front doors and treat potential buyers to a tour of the place and its lavish amenities.

Buyers are typically wowed by the finishes, tread carefully on the polished marble, imagine storing wine in the fridge and leave marveling at the views.

But at Madison Square Park Tower — set to be the tallest building between Midtown and the Financial District — at 45 East 22nd Street, developers recently touted something else: the tower’s special engineering, required because of the building’s atypical shape.

The tower is tall and thin with a slanted roof and is much wider at the top than it is at its pretty granite base. In fact, the building actually walks out four inches every floor, the building’s developer, Ian Bruce Eichner, told us.

This design comes with a particular set of structural necessities, but the one being shown off on the warm spring day that LLNYC was treated to a tour was its tuned mass damper. Tuned what, you say?

The name is likely gobbledygook to many, but its purpose is simple, to counteract the effects of the wind on this 777-foot-tall tower.

Madison Square Park Tower’s builder used
a mechanism called a ’tuned mass damper’
to prevent residents from getting queasy
in the kitchen

“All buildings experience movement,” said Eichner. “And the movement is measured in something called milli-gs. Above a certain number of milli-gs, you experience a feeling akin to seasickness.”

Developers use a tuned mass damper to prevent residents of multimillion-dollar homes in tall towers from getting queasy in their kitchens.

Eichner likened it to a “pogo stick,” albeit monster-size. Four of those pogo sticks are attached to 1.2 million pounds of steel — the weight of roughly 400 cars — and on a windy day the pogo sticks, along with all of that steel, move around, acting as a shock absorber to counter the wind. On a particularly windy day, you can actually see the huge hunk of metal move three inches.

“There’s very few buildings that have dampers,” said Eichner. “So you got to see something that chances are you won’t see again.” In fact, this is the first building he has ever built that has used them.

But in space-starved Manhattan, as taller and thinner buildings increasingly contribute to the skyline, more dampers will be needed. Both One57, the tower at 157 West 57th Street, and 432 Park Avenue have this particularly crucial amenity, as will 111 West 57th Street, 53W53, 220 Central Park South and 111 Murray Street.

Even so, don’t mistake dampers for a new fad; older buildings have them, too. At 601 Lexington Avenue, formerly known as Citigroup Center, there’s a damper under the prominent, angular top. But instead of using a mass of steel to offset movement, its damper — known as a slosh damper or slosh tank — has two gargantuan pot-like vessels, one of which contains water while the other is empty.

When the building experiences movement, the water goes from one tank to the other to correct it.

But Eichner is pleased that he decided to go with steel, saying, “I didn’t want to have on top of my fancy-schmancy condominiums — let alone a $50 million penthouse — 50,000 gallons of water.”