Skyscrapers of New York City

by NYCgo.com Staff

(Updated 02/18/2016)
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New York City is defined by its skyline—the silhouette created by Manhattan's buildings is instantly recognizable and utterly mesmerizing. In fact, NYC is home to more than 200 buildings measuring 500 feet or taller, roughly double that of its closest US competitor. You can appreciate the skyline's grandeur from the observation decks atop the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, and Top of the Rock, and revel in its scope from lower vantage points like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Brooklyn Heights promenade.

Here's a guide to some of the City's essential skyscrapers—organized, naturally, by descending order of height.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

One World Trade Center
Height: 1,776 feet
NYC rank: 1
The tall and short of it: The tallest building in New York City (and the western hemisphere) is this Lower Manhattan edifice. Primarily designed by David Childs of the august firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, One WTC starts at ground level with a traditional square base—but, as it rises, the edges are pared away, yielding a distinctive eight-sided tower composed of a series of soaring isosceles triangles and topped by a 408-foot spire. Condé Nast is the biggest name of the tenants occupying the space. Obviously, there is a massive amount of emotion and history attached to the site, and the building nods to the original World Trade Center: the footprint of One WTC is the same size as that of each of the Twin Towers, and the observation deck is at the former height of the north tower.
Is there an observation deck? Yes: One World Observatory, which is 1,250 feet high. Guests arrive there in a very speedy elevator—it takes just a minute to ascend—and experience panoramic views of the City.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Empire State Building
Height: 1,250 feet (does not include 204-foot spire)
NYC rank: 3
The tall and short of it: The tallest building in the world from its completion in 1931 until 1972 (when the north tower of the World Trade Center surpassed it), the Empire State Building might be the best-known skyscraper anywhere. The art deco masterpiece has appeared in movies numerous times, most famously in King Kong. There are offices in the Empire State Building, but it's also an extremely popular attraction for the trips up to the top. Find more information at the official Empire State Building website.
Fun fact: It only took one year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building.
Is there an observation deck? Yes. For details on how to visit, check out esbnyc.com.

Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

Chrysler Building
Height: 1,046 feet
NYC rank: 5 (tied)
The tall and short of it: Though its reign as the world's tallest building was brief—less than a year, until the Empire State Building surpassed it—the Chrysler Building has, in the eyes of many, never surrendered its title as the prettiest NYC skyscraper (clearly a subjective distinction). Commissioned by Walter P. Chrysler as the headquarters for his car company—no longer housed here—the art deco tower was designed by Brooklyn-born architect William Van Alen.
Fun fact: It was through some gamesmanship that the Chrysler Building ever got to be the tallest building in the City and the world. The Manhattan Company Building, later known as 40 Wall Street (and, now, the Trump Building), was under construction at the same time, and architect H. Craig Severance believed it would be taller than the Chrysler Building; what he didn't know was that the Chrysler Building's spire was secretly under construction inside the building's frame. The added 125 feet secured the Chrysler Building's height title, at least until the Empire State Building came around.
Is there an observation deck? Not since 1945, but you can walk in and take a peek at the ornately decorated lobby, whose attractions include the massive mural Transport and Human Endeavor, by Edward Trumbull.

Photo: © Bernstein Associates Photographers/Ray Jackson

The New York Times Building
Height: 1,046 feet
NYC rank: 5 (tied)
The tall and short of it: A relative newcomer to NYC's skyline, the New York Times Building was completed in 2007. While it is home to the world's most famous newspaper, the structure may have found itself in the brightest spotlight in 2008, when three separate men scaled the building, taking advantage of the ceramic-rod screens mounted to the exterior of the glass curtain walls (they were all arrested—you're not allowed to climb skyscrapers in NYC—and the ceramic rods were subsequently removed from lower floors to prevent future attempts). Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the building is also home to the TimesCenter, which has, among its spaces, a 378-seat auditorium that hosts readings, screenings, musical performances and other public events.

Is there an observation deck? No.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Citigroup Center
Height: 915 feet
NYC rank: 12
The tall and short of it: This 59-story building—easy to spot in the New York City skyline due to its sloping right-triangle rooftop—was built as headquarters for Citigroup (then Citibank) in the late 1970s. It was sold to a real estate firm in 2009, which rechristened it as 601 Lexington, though locals still refer to the building by its previous name or its original name, Citicorp Center.
Is there an observation deck? No.

Photo: Marley White

Comcast Building (aka 30 Rock)
Height: 850 feet
NYC rank: 16
The tall and short of it: You probably know the art deco building at the heart of Rockefeller Center for being the home of NBC, where The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live and Late Night film and from which the show 30 Rock got its name. Even if you can't snag a ticket to a taping, you can check out the grand interior (and lobby mural by José María Sert) on your way to visiting the Top of the Rock observation deck or grabbing a bite to eat in the building's underground concourse.
Is there an observation deck? Yes: Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The three observation decks on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors, which provide panoramas in every direction, are a great place to view the City's skyline—including the Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue. Visit topoftherocknyc.com.

Photo: Marley White

MetLife Building
Height: 808 feet
NYC rank: 21
The tall and short of it: Bestriding Park Avenue like an International Style colossus, and towering over Grand Central Terminal, the Pan Am Building was derided as a behemoth when it arrived on the scene in 1963 (it had more office space than any other building in the world). Over the years it has become a reassuring presence in the skyline and won a place in the hearts of New Yorkers. MetLife bought the building in 1981—and, just over a decade later, as the airline's decline continued, replaced the familiar Pan Am logo on the building's crown with its own.
Fun fact: The MetLife building has long been a happy home for peregrine falcons, which nest in the upper reaches of the building's exterior.
Is there an observation deck? No.

Photo: Marley White

Woolworth Building
Height: 792 feet
NYC rank: 23
The tall and short of it: The world's tallest building from its completion in 1913 until 1930, when 40 Wall Street (briefly) claimed the title, the neo-Gothic Woolworth Building is one of New York City's most celebrated and recognizable skyscrapers. Its interior is distinguished by vaulted ceilings and stained glass. Frank Woolworth commissioned architect Cass Gilbert to design the tower, which would house the headquarters of his namesake five-and-dime store. Now, luxury apartments occupy the upper levels of the building.
Fun fact: President Woodrow Wilson turned on the Woolworth Building's lights—remotely, from Washington, DC—when it first opened.
Is there an observation deck? No, but it's fun to look at the outside of the building during a downtown sightseeing walk—and you can tour the lobby.

Photo: Alex Lopez

Time Warner Center
Height: 750 feet (both towers)
NYC rank: 30 (tied)
The tall and short of it: These towers have come to be a defining feature of the Columbus Circle area since their completion in 2003—perhaps as much as the statue of Columbus himself. The buildings house a mall, luxury residences, CNN television studios, the Mandarin Oriental, New York, and Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall. On-site dining options are far from typical food-court fare: Masa, Landmarc and Per Se are all places for splurging.
Is there an observation deck? No.

Photo: Robert Polidori

The Skyscraper Museum
Not a skyscraper itself, the Skyscraper Museum is a good place to go if you're interested in learning more about the city's towering buildings. Located in Lower Manhattan—not far from One World Trade Center and the Woolworth Building—the facility is packed with exhibitions exploring the science, history and future of high-rises.


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