New York’s Deco Towers

Growing up we could see the New York Skyline from the back window of both my grandparents’ flat and from our flat, although the best view was from Grandma’s kitchen fire escape.  The Empire State and Chrysler buildings dominated the skyline.  When I moved to Ridgewood the favorite spot for “parking” was on a ridge overlooking the skyline.  Again, those two buildings were the focus of the skyline.

The Empire State Building lost its title as the tallest in New York to the World Trade Center twin towers in the early 70’s.  When the towers were brought down it was again King of New York.  Now the “Freedom Tower” at One World Trade Center is taller than either Empire or the old twin towers.   One building already topped out in midtown is taller than Empire (although not taller than Empire with its TV Antenna) and four more midtown towers top 1000 feet.   I love seeing these new buildings, exploring their design and reading about their building techniques.  But for me these two Art Deco towers, along with the former RCA building (now called “30 Rock”) are still iconic New York.

I have special affinity for the Empire State Building.  Empire was my working address of record for three summers.  Even when I went out to Shea Stadium to cover the Mets, Empire was home base.  Four Empire State memories stand out, riding small motor cycles around the 86 floor observation deck after hours, climbing on the mast on top of the building to “inspect” our antenna, flying paper airplanes out of an 83rd floor window, having them catch an updraft and hearing ooho and ahha from tourists on the 86 floor observation deck, and ordering a pizza to room 8301 at 500 5th avenue and showing the pizzaman the view for his unexpected delivery. He thought it was a hoax at first.

This trip I ran out of time before I got to go up to the observation deck of Empire, but I did get into the lobby of the Chrysler building to look at the fine Art Deco details.

The Chrysler Building has a lobby ceiling mural “transport and the Human Endeavor” by Edward Trumbull.  In style it reminds me of the Socialist Realism art that I became so familiar with in the former Communist world, but painted from a capitalist perspective.

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