Empire State Building turns 75

Updated: Apr 30 2006, 06:18am hrs
The Empire State Building has survived a plane crash, a fire and, in the movies, a love-enflamed ape scaling its peak.

Now, as it turns 75 years old tomorrow, the iconic building has fallen on hard times, especially since the September 11 attacks, when it regained the double-edged boast of being the tallest building in Manhattan.

The Empire State Building officially opened on May 1, 1931, as the worlds tallest building and a remarkable engineering feat with abysmal timing, coming as the Great Depression was deepening. It soon earned the nickname Empty State Building.

There have been good times since then, but clearly the building was hurt by the Sept. 11 attacks, which scared potential tenants who feared it could be the next target.

In September 2001, 8% of the buildings commercial space was empty. Today, that figure is 17% compared with 6% for the surrounding area. Management is fighting back with a massive renovation on the elevators, windows, plumbing and security. More than $75 million has been spent so far, though the improvement cannot provide tenants with wide-open floor plans because of the structures bulky columns.

While some deride it as old, others find cache in its gray and red marble interiors, understated Art Deco ornament and the limestone and granite exterior once pierced by a B-25 bomber that crashed into the 79th floor in 1945, killing 14.

The main structure rises to 1,250 feet, ninth in the world but highest in New York after September 11.

Rents for Empire State office space have lagged others in its area in the southern part of Midtown Manhattan.