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Empire State Building celebrates 80th birthday

The Empire State Building is shown in this

The Empire State Building is shown in this undated file photo. (May 29, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

The top of the Empire State Building was white Sunday night, fitting for its age — after all, the tower turned 80. 

For an old dame, though, the 1,250-foot-tall Art Deco dowager is holding up well, having received a $550 million facelift and an energy-saving retrofit to restore her youthful luster.

The landmark is a metaphor for New York in all its vexing complexity, observed Alison Savona, 35, who was waiting for her latest group of tourist friends to come down from the observatory yesterday.

Sure, visiting the costly aerie is expensive, and the waits are long and the crowds crushing, said the Fairfield, Ct. management consultant. Yet, Savona allowed, seeing the city spread out beneath you like a twinkly blanket “is exhilarating.” 

Whenever you see the building in a newscast pan shot or glimpse it from a landing plane, “it’s a comfort,” added her husband, Carey Savona, 38, an executive chef.

The “ESB” is a poignant testament to the resiliency of the city, he noted, in that it survived a U.S. Army bomber plane crashing into its 79th and 80th floors. It reclaimed its title as the tallest building in the city after the Twin Towers were destroyed, and its red-white-and-blue top was a comfort to the city in the days after 9/11.

“It’s nice to see the colors and it’s relationship to whatever is going on in the city,” he added. “It’s a sentinel, a symbol that everything is alright.”

Perhaps no building has figured so prominently in Hollywood, starring in everything from “King Kong” in 1933 and “Love Affair” in 1939 (remade in 1957 as “An Affair to Remember,” and, loosely, again, in 1993 as “Sleepless in Seattle.”) 

Boikai Cummings, 26, an investment banker from Johannesburg, South Africa, found the “romantic buzz” depicted in the movies missing from the real experience because the observatory is just like the rest of NYC – flooded with people taking pictures and jockeying for a good spot. Yet “the aerial view is fantastic,” he conceded.

Every tourist knows the iconic ESB is a must-see, said Erik Lancelot, 36, a software developer from Oslo, Norway. But not every tourist knows that admission tickets to the to the 86th floor are $21 and that the “express floor combination” that zip you to the 102nd floor is $56. “In Norway,” said a shocked Lancelot, going to the top of Oslo’s tallest building,  “would be free.”


ESB trivia: Bet you didn't know ...

1.) The original Waldorf=Astoria was razed to build the Empire State Building.

2.) Was jokingly called "Empty State Building" in early days because of failure to attract tenants.

3.) Lost title as world's tallest Oct. 19, 1970, eclipsed by World Trade Center.

4.) Was designed by same firm that built doomed Deutsche Bank tower decades later.


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