Experiencing The Safest Tourist Attraction in New York City
I'm the luckiest girl in the NYC! No, seriously. I've been able to experience so many things that New York has to offer throughout my career. I was invited to the Empire State Building and I was hesitant because of the pandemic. However after some thought and consideration I reached out and said yes. This is the perfect opportunity, the city is quiet and I will have full access to myself. As I walked into the building it was like a movie scene, I've never seen the Empire State Building so empty. I met my contact Kai-Ti, Senior Sales Manager. She shared how the Empire State Building reduced their hours of operation and runs a capacity of 20% and is the first building in the country to earn the WELL Health & Safety Ratings for it's procedures and protocols in it's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading the way for the rest of the country. That's right, New York does it best! They added a filtration system, hand sanitizer sections, cleaning protocols, safety markers and more. They renovated the lobby and several floors. Before you reach the elevator there is a mini replica of the building, Kai-Ti told me it took 105 days to build while the actual Empire State Building took 410 days. The replica was so beautiful and they also had shadows of people in the office windows.
Instead of just walking into the lobby and waiting in a line, they created exhibits as you go towards the elevator. Since I was the only one there I got to experience each exhibit. One of the first things I saw were wall sized photos of the Empire State Building. I continued down the hall and entered a room with the history of the building's design and a simulated video of how it was built. The following exhibit was closed for safety reasons but the murals on the wall were so cool that when you walked the room there was an optical illusion of the buildings on the New York City street moving. I tried to take a video to see if I could capture it and it kind of worked. We then walked towards another room that had a virtual simulation of the workers of the Empire State Building as it was being built. Kai-Ti informed me there were about 3,000 workers per day and if one person called out sick they would have to stop production for the day because the workers were all partnered up and relied on one another. They didn't have safety harnesses and it was like an orchestra. The workers that dealt with the hot rivets had a system and would throw it to one another with special signals. The video simulation showing this was very cool but clearly you see how extremely dangerous it was while they constructed the building.
We continue to the next exhibit and the displays were filled with accessories, gadgets and clothing from different years since the building was constructed. All the items were taken from the offices and the people that worked in the building. There were pictures of the grand opening and street photography throughout the years. As we passed the elevator exhibit we walked into my new favorite room, the Movie Room. It had posters of old movies that were filmed at the Empire State Building and of course the most famous movie of them all, King Kong. We walked into a black room with multiple screens playing different movie clips featuring the Empire State Building simultaneously. I think I could've stay there for at least an hour just watching it in a loop. When we left the room, there it was King Kong's hands and face in the window looking in. I felt like a little kid, it was really cool. His face was moving and his hands looked like he crashed through the building. I ran to get my picture taken and I was allowed to take my mask off for the photo since I was the only person there. I tried to look scared as though King Kong grabbed me but I ended up smiling. I put my mask on and we walked through a hall of celebrity photographs that attended events or had photoshoots in the building .
We reached the elevator and that's when Kai-Ti told me to prepare myself. I turned on my camera immediately and pointed it to the ceiling and captured a video simulation of the building being constructed as we went to the 86th Floor. 54 seconds later, we were at the observatory. We walked out and it was so windy, I was hot but I put on my coat since I didn't want to hold it during the strong wind gust. There she was, my beautiful city. Even during a cloudy, about to snow storm day she was gorgeous. It was Me & the City, and Kai-Ti of course, but it felt as though I had the city all to myself . I wanted to take this all in and not take it for granted. This would've never happen before the pandemic. No matter what time of year the city is always buzzing and there will always be a crowd somewhere but not today! It was bittersweet. As lucky as I felt it was also a reminder of what this pandemic has done to my city. There is no tourism, people are losing their jobs and no matter how many guards were in the building it's still a reduced staff. I have to share my experience because this is a New Yorker's moment to truly enjoy the city. A regular New Yorker loves the city but would never go to a tourist spot. This is my plea to my fellow New Yorkers, go to the Empire State Building! I know it's rough, I know it's scary, but standing there overlooking the city with no crowds was magical. I'm still high over the experience. Yes, I've been to the Empire State Building so many times and I've attend plenty of private parties there but this day was beyond special.
We head up to the 102nd Floor, my favorite part of the building since not many people go there. It's a smaller space and it's so intimate. I walked out of the elevator and saw what they did with this space and my jaw dropped. They now have floor to ceiling windows, before the renovation it was a high wall with small windows. I remember I used to stand on the metal ledge on my tip toes to look out the window but now it's a 360 degree view of New York City. As I stood there I began to look at every block, building, areas of the city and beyond. It was reminder that this city is bigger than us and to appreciate every part of it. This pandemic has been rough on us and just for a moment I was able to take a breath, enjoy the silence and the view.
After spending some time on the 102nd floor and chatting while pointing out some cool parts of the city it was time to go. As we walk towards the exit, we walk towards the gift shop and it was set up beautifully. They had gifts ranging from mini buildings, art work, photography, plush toys, crystals to luxury jewelry. As we turned the corner there it was, an entire section of Empire State Building Chocolate. Okay, heaven! They even had a King Kong chocolate section. I have to say this was such a magical experience for me. I had the Empire State Building all to myself for three hours. The renovation is well done, the museum section is special and of course the view is spectacular. To all my fellow New Yorkers, go now and experience the building like you never had before. If anything don't go for the view and just go for the chocolates.