Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

June 12, 2008

Dear Abu Dhabi, Don't Dare…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:50 pm

…turn out the lights in the Chrysler Buiding spire.

That was my first thought when I read about the acquisition of the great New York skyscaper by an Abu Dhabi-based investment consortium. That lighted spire–the fact that its lovely light-sabres, those illuminated hierogylphics–light up the night from dusk to dawn is one of my most treasured achievements as a writer/columnist. Don’t take it away from me, don’t take it away from the city or its visitors.

Here’s the story: almost ten years ago I moved into an apartment that had a wonderful bedroom window view of the Chysler Buiilding. It’s not the tallest, but to me it’s the most beautiful New York skyscaper, and nothing more beautiful than its graceful spire lit at night with glowing tubes of light. In-spiring!

Up to a point. That point being 2 a.m. when the then-owner of the building ordered that the lights of the spire be shut off every night. It was shocking, dispiriting. it threw cold watr, a bleak shroud of darkness over the most romantic stretch of the night. It robably deepened the dark night of the soul of the depressed and despairing who saw it shut off. It made a mockery of the the line in that annoying but iconic Sinatra song: “I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps”.

Fortunately I had a city-oriented column at the time, in The New York Observer, and I when I learned that the Chrysler tower had a new owner, I initated a crusade to get them to change the stingy, mingy old policy, return tothe way it had been when the building had just been built and keep the lights on all night long. I asked readers to write in. I talked about the way those lights were symbolic of the thrilling comsmopolitanism of the city.

And guess what? It worked! The new owner Tishman-Speyer changed the old policy and kept the lights on all night long sometimes outglowing the dawn when they were swtiched off at 6 a.m.

I’ve always felt this was my most cherished contribution to the city inwhich I was born and lived most of my life. I imagined lovers and drunks out in the hours betwen 2 and 6 a.m., looking up at the spire and thanking me for the glow of romance or consolation.

Will the new owners keep the lights burning? Last time I checked Abu Dhabi was not suffering from an energy shortage, so let’s not hear any energy saving nonsense. Sometimes astonishihg, unique beauty that millions can behold for free is worth the cost. If you don’t believe inthis principle than you should favor turning off reading lights in libraries, you philistines.

I think that before the sale is finalized to the Abu Dhabi owners, the sellers ought to insist, on behalf of the people of New York City, indeed the people of America, that they sign a codicil pledging to maintain that early morning skyine glow that is such an ethereal but essential part of the city’s beauty.

Don’t cross me on this, Abu Dhabi.



  1. This time, they’ll send the planes at night.

    Comment by charlie finch — June 13, 2008 @ 9:45 am | Reply

  2. Just got back from NYC. First time visitor, awed by the city. Ron, you are right-on about this building. With its iconic status, most must anticipate a shiver upon the first sighting of the Empire State Building , but Chrysler thrilled me more. I have seen many standard photos of the building but it was the real thing that knocked my socks off. And yes, when I strolled Manhattan that night and saw the lit spire, I felt giddy with delight. Ron, your crusade was trully noble.


    Comment by Ian Crerar — June 17, 2008 @ 11:48 am | Reply

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