New Empire State Building spire dazzles rivals
By Sebastian Smith, AFPNEW YORK--When owner Anthony Malkin found his Empire State Building's dominance of the New York skyline under attack, he turned to Hong Kong for an idea that could dazzle any rival into submission: light.
January 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The 1,200 newly installed lamps now illuminating the skyscraper's famous spire have brought the most visible change to the Art-Deco building since it was raised over Manhattan at the start of the Great Depression.
The spire — the same one that King Kong climbed in the black and white 1933 movie — had been lit up in some manner since 1956, with colors introduced in 1976.
In a nightly city tradition, New Yorkers would find the spire either in standard white or honoring some special event: blue and white when the Yankees win the Baseball World Series, red and green for Christmas, green for Saint Patrick's Day, and so on.
But the huge, inefficient lamps installed in the 1970s — each the size of a small table — left only a dull glow on the spire.
And the so-so performance was apt for an iconic building struggling for relevancy in a competitive age.
Downtown, the new World Trade Center was rising on the ruins of the Twin Towers, last year reclaiming its crown as New York's tallest building.
Nearby at Penn Station, plans were hatched for a new skyscraper that would crowd in on the splendidly isolated position of the Empire State Building.
Also uncomfortably close, the Bank of America tower has become one of a growing gang of Midtown interlopers with their own sky-high light displays.
Malkin knew the centerpiece of his family's real estate holdings, which he calls “the world's most famous office building,” could not live on past glories.
“The biggest wake-up moment for me came in 2004 when I went with my older son's class trip to China,” he told AFP in an interview in the lavishly restored lobby of the Empire State Building.
“We found ourselves in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and I looked at that landscape and that skyline and I came back to New York and I said, wow, we are behind the times — not just the Empire State Building, but the whole skyline of New York.”
'It's not a billboard'
The dream of putting some Hong Kong into King Kong's spire was born.
Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Holdings, stands next to a model of the Empire State Building in the lobby of the building in New York on Wednesday, Jan. 16. During 2012, the ...