The Empire State Building is a long standing landmark in NYC. For many years it held the record as the tallest building in the world. I have memories from childhood of going to the top floor with Dad one day. It was terrific to look over the tops of every other building in that city full of skyscrapers! Then, along came the World Trade Center and we are all well aware of the tragic end to that monumental structure. One evening in late summer of 1980, I had the opportunity to ascend the mighty tower to the observation deck and watch the sunset over the distant hills of N.J. and PA . I was also fortunate enough to have grown up within eyesight of the New York City skyline and watched the Towers as they were erected in the 1970’s. There remains a bit of nostalgia in my heart for that fallen behemoth as well as the more quaint art deco style of the Empire State Bldg. Today the competition for the tallest, building wages between Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Shanghai Tower in China, though it is still under construction and scheduled to open in 2014. The new One World Trade Center is currently recognized as the 4th tallest building in the world.
After spending the day with Momo and Linbo and seeing them off at the subway station, Diane and I thought it would be fun to go up the Empire State Building to snap some pictures of the skyline. We also hoped to get the timing just so we caught the full moon coming up. We did succeed in getting a few decent photos, but the experience causes me to question my sanity. $50 to ride a crowded elevator to stand rubbing elbows with a horde of people and take a few pictures. It is what I would call a New York hustle…and we fell for it!
We had been on our feet all day so the idea of standing in line possibly for hours was not appealing at all. An additional $23 to the base fee of $27 for the privilege of an “Express Ticket” may seem exorbitant and it probably is, but on this warm summer evening at sunset/moonrise the crowds were enormous and the wait would not only be on the way up, but also on the way down. So, after going through the first line for security screening, we paid for the express ticket to the main deck. Of course, if you don’t mind standing in line for hours and hours, the cheap ticket may be okay for you. The Express Ticket to the main deck and then up to 102nd floor is a whopping $67 per person! At each line for an elevator we were politely ushered through to the top of the line. Upon reaching the observation deck, we were struck by how crowded it was. There was barely room to walk as the throngs of people tried to squeeze through and get a glimpse of that Big Apple skyline. I don’t enjoy crowds especially in a confined space with limited ingress and egress. It was uncomfortable and nearly impossible to get any quality pictures. We had to push our way to the railings and then there were others who were pushing to get a view as well. We spent about 30 minutes shuffling around the 4 compass positions then, decided that was enough and began the descent to the street.
The N.Y. hustle aspect of this is more than just the cost. The line to the elevators weaves through a concession where they will snap a picture of you and family with a faux skyline backdrop. This was the first hustle. There is no alternate line to circumvent this gimmick. So, you are forced to wait for each person to have their picture snapped. Most people don’t realize that you can decline the photo shoot and just move through. At the end of tour, there is a related concession wherein the operators of the venue now show the developed pictures to you so that you may choose to buy copies at ridiculously inflated prices. On the way out, guests are also herded through the gift shop. Spend more money on useless trinkets? No thanks. We were grateful for the express tickets on the way down — no waiting on line to leave the building seemed a like luxury after a long day of walking through the city. As we exited the building we noticed the lines had grown exponentially and we were very glad to be on our way.
Here are some of the better pictures: