An astounding 54.3 million tourists are expected to have visited New York City by the end of this year, many of them for the first time. And while, of course, for many of these visitors, a runway at LaGuardia or the back of a cab driver’s head will be their first impressions of the city, the more memorable vision will be the one that has been enchanting tourists ever since 1870, when construction workers topped out the 130-foot tall Equitable Life Assurance Building, long considered the Big Apple’s first skyscraper.
Indeed, long before those tourists visit their first gift shop or hit the hotel bar, it’s the estimated 5,500 skyscrapers and nearly one million buildings across the five boroughs that will leave the most indelible impression. But what neither they nor most residents of New York will see this year are the stories behind the buildings that make up Manhattan’s sprawling skyline.
A nation of millions celebrated the topping out of 1 World Trade Center earlier this year, hailing its completion as a victory against the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But left off the front pages was the official measuring of the 1,776-foot-tall building by an obscure group called the Council on Tall Buildings.
Meanwhile, farther uptown, New Yorkers have watched as a new neighborhood, Hudson Yards, appears before their eyes. But behind the scenes, brokers made the building complex a reality by signing anchor tenant deals for cosmetics giant L’Oreal and German software company SAP.
And while an estimated 4 million people visit the Empire State Building each year, it’s safe to say that few who reached its observatory in 2013 followed its controversial path toward becoming a publicly traded asset.
Indeed, from the failed push to rezone Midtown East to a mounting activist-led campaign to relocate the storied and recently renovated Madison Square Garden, the stories behind New York’s best known assets were nearly as bold as the buildings themselves.
And while the city itself is said to boast eight million stories, as 2013 concludes The Commercial Observer has chosen to break out just twelve of the tales behind the bricks and mortar that neither the tourists nor many of its residents will likely ever hear.