Time to Get on the Top of the Rock
or
Can You Smell What’s Cooking at the Top of the Rock?

There’s one thing that I hate about Chrysler Building. It does not have a public observation deck. I feel that any major skyscraper needs to have two things at the top: a restaurant and an observation deck.

To the owners the public areas at the top are usually a pain in the ass and rarely pay for themselves. Having a lot of people from the street come up to the very top of the building, adding to the overall traffic is not fun for building management from the security standpoint. I remember reading about the co-op board of a posh building at 30 Central Park South trying to evict Nirvana, a top floor Indian restaurant with amazing views of Central Park. They complained about the traffic and the cooking smells.

Because of this most buildings that used to have observation decks and restaurants closed them. Over a the Tishman Building Top of the Sixes turned into an exclusive cigar club. At the City Services Building the public observation deck, which was actually planned as the owner’s penthouse, was turned into a closed lounge for AIG brass. An at the Chrysler Building, the observation deck became Schrafft’s Restaurant, then it morphed into posh and private Cloud Club, and then closed altogether.

When I was younger, I was not particularly attracted to the views from high vantage points. But for some reason at the turn of the Millennium found me deeply fascinated with skyscrapers and views from them. To this day I can’t forgive myself not visiting the observation deck at WTC. I probably did not have enough money to eat at the perished Windows on the World, but not visiting Top of the World still fills me with remorse.

Because of this upsetting tendency of restriction and destruction public spaces high in the skies, I find this very joyous news: the rocket-like 30 Rockefeller Plaza will be opening an observation deck to the public. It’s going to be called “Top of the Rock.”

Rockefeller Center has an interesting distinction of being one of the very few Rockefeller family projects that carry their name (the other big one being Rockefeller University). Most people also think that it’s built and named after John D. Senior, the Mr. Burns prototype and semi-crazy hander outer of nickels, when in fact, it was the mellow John D. Junior who built it.

Since the Rockefeller name is not that popular, it’s common to see “Rockefeller Center” to be shortened to sexier “Rock Center”, as for example the menu of Yummy Sushi contains several sushi combos named Rock X, where X is a number of the combo.

As much as I tried, I could not find out a more definite date than “sometime this fall”, but one of the free booklets that you can get in the lobby of the GE (former RCA) building has a little blurb and the logo. I like the logo. It’s all Art Deco-ey.

The Seat Of Lucifer

For a long time the nighttime skyline of midtown Manhattan had a small but very unsettling detail. There, amongst gleaming lights of skyscrapers, it floated. A red neon “666”. Were the Satanists so bold as to purchase a giant advertising like that? Were they that wealthy? There is a company called 999 Pharmaceutical and for a while I thought that it was actually 999 somehow reflected from a mirrored surface. I haven’t seen the red neon 666 lately and kind of stopped wondering.

Yesterday, while researching Isamu Noguchi, I noticed that he designed the lobby at 666 5th Avenue. On a whim I decided to find the picture of the building – and lo and behold – the mysterious 666 turned out to be the building number made into a decorative neon sign atop that particular skyscraper.

Known then as the Tishman Building it served as headquarters for the company that built amongst other buildings World Trade Center and John Hancock Center. They will be building the Freedom Tower as well.

In 2002 either because of 9/11 or because Tishman sold the building (although the corporation still has offices there) or maybe because they finally understood that having a giant neon 666 on a building that is right next to St. Thomas Church is not kosher, “666” was replaced with a more powerful symbol of evil – the Citicorp umbrella :

(earlier I wrote about a different evil Citi neon umbrella logo )

The top floor of the building used to house an awesome restaurant called “Top Of The Sixes”. These days it houses an exclusive cigar lounge called The Grand Havana Room. Check it out: floor to ceiling windows with views to die for, overstuffed (I’ve never heard about an understaffed one) chairs, cigar vaults with personal, shared and corporate humidors and other niceties.

Unfortunately, from what I learned on Usenet, membership is 3K per year. I guess they follow the gym pricing structure (in fact a gym membership in NYC can easily cost that much).

I also remembered that Lebedev Studio(or whatever it’s called these days) has a forwarding mailbox at 666 5th. There must be a mailbox store in the building, but I did not notice one when I was there today.

One Hundred Views Of Empire State

So I was buying overpriced fotoclips at the photography museum shop. Then I decided to buy a few postcards for sending to my non-writing friends. The only one New York picture I liked half way was the one on Empire State Building with the subway globe. But then I quickly remembered the globe itself was half a block from where I was. So there it is. Zero creativity, 100% clich�. Saved 75 cents.

Empire State Building Checkmark

Get to the top of the Empire State Building? Check.

The triangle in this picture is formed by my favorite skyscraper of all times — the Flatiron Building.

My fascination with the Flatiron started when I read O.Henry’s “Little Speck in Garnered Fruit” (in Russian translation, of course).

Here is the quote that interested me:
The druggist made an examination. “It isn’t broken,” was his diagnosis, “but you have a bruise there that looks like you’d fallen off the Flatiron twice.”

The translation went something like “your face looked like it was flattened by the Flatiron Building”, but that doesn’t matter.

I’ve never seen a picture of the Flatiron, but reading that story, I tried to imagine what it looked like. Upon seeing the building in Manhattan 5 years later, I instantly realized what it was.

But wait, there is more.

In the first couple of years of the Internet boom I learned about Flatiron Partners, a venture capitalist partnership. At the time I did not even know who venture capitalists were. These guys had a really crappy site though. I wrote them an email, offering to code a better looking website for free, because I liked the Flatiron Building so much. I even got a response, thanking me for my offer, and saying that they were working with some professionals on the new version.

Soon, when I was working at iXL, I actually did some very light coding on their site anyway. iXL was the company that got their account. Talk about destiny, huh? :)