Alone at the Top
Finding new depth on the 86th floor of the Empire State
By LOLA OGUNNAIKE *
Daily News Fashion Writer
It's the nicest view in town.
And, sadly, because of the acts of terrorism committed Sept. 11, it is the only view in town. A visit to the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building has long been a "must-do" on any serious tourist's checklist. Now, a trip to the historic building has taken on even greater meaning.
"We're lucky to still have it," said Emma, visiting the city from Los Angeles. Though she had been to the skyscraper once before, this time felt profoundly different.
"It was really weird being up there and not seeing the towers," she said, echoing the sentiments of others gathered outside after an elevator ride down.
Built during the Great Depression, the Empire State Building was at the center of a competition between the founders of Chrysler Corp. (Walter P. Chrysler) and General Motors (John Jakob Raskob) to see who could erect the world's tallest building. From the start of construction on March 17, 1930, the building's steel frame rose at nearly 4 1/2 floors a week.
Not everyone comes for the view. Some just peek out at the world so they can say they've done it, others to imagine King Kong hanging on for his life.
"I watched that movie, and ever since I was a kid I've wanted to come here and check this place out," said Diego Armani, in town for a week from Argentina.
"I was supposed to be in New York last year to see the World Trade Center towers, but I missed them," Armani said, grimacing. "I wasn't going to miss this."
The 1993 romantic comedy "Sleepless in Seattle" convinced Rachel Durand she had to come from Roswell, N.M., to tour the building.
"Just because of how it's depicted in the movie I thought it would be interesting to come up and see," she said.
Though the number of tourists (and New Yorkers) is down from the "1,000 people per hour" the building usually gets on a busy summer day, the deck one day this week held as many as 300 visitors.
The line to get up to the deck, once notoriously long, was remarkably short and relatively painless.
And according to Durand, who has been been making her way around the city the last few days, "security is tighter here than at the Statue of Liberty. I felt very safe."
Neither did the day's pronounced chill and brisk winds keep camera bugs from milling about.
Morgan Silver, another tourist in from L.A., spent close to an hour sketching the view from the building's south side, which faces the Statue of Liberty and the injured skyline.
"It's an amazing view," he said. "It's very inspirational to look out and see how powerful this city is, even after the devastation."
The 86th-floor Observatory (that's 1,050 feet above Fifth Ave. and 34th St.) is open weekdays, 10 a.m. until midnight, and weekends, 9:30 a.m. until midnight. The last elevators go up at 11:15.
Except for children under 18 with an adult, all visitors must show valid photo ID — driver's license, school ID or passport are acceptable. Admission is $9 for adults, $4 for children under 12 and $7 for seniors 62 and older and for military personnel with ID.
Original Publication Date: 1/18/02