Hudson Yards adds yet another climbing experience.
Photo: Courtesy of Edge
Well, it was quick. The Summit of One Vanderbilt opened last week – in a blitz of media coverage, mirrored selfies, and LED reflections – and already it’s been eclipsed by Edge, the 30 Hudson Yards observation deck that will allow visitors to climb the outside from the top of the tower. The experience, known as the “City Climb,” involves attaching a safety harness for a 161-step hike up an outdoor staircase while you reflect on your lifestyle choices. At the top, visitors can lean back dramatically for a photoshoot (participants are not allowed to bring their own cameras but will receive a video and be able to purchase photographs, like at an amusement park) before to go back downstairs to swallow a glass of champagne included in the $ 185 bill. The Edge is indeed bold – not only in concept and timing, but also in introducing a new tier of pricing into the Observatory game, where general admission hovers around $ 35. There will also be a more traditional observation deck experience, billed as a ‘spectator ticket’, for those who want the experience of cheering on climbers without directly risking death.
Observation decks are ticket machines (as long as there are tourists, at least): When the Empire State Building filed for an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2011, the documents revealed that the observation deck made more money than the offices. , according to The Wall Street Journal. (During the Depression, when the building was brand new and could barely sign tenants, ticket revenues were said to be the only thing preventing foreclosure for unpaid property taxes.) Before the pandemic, the Empire State Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza’s Top of the Rock and the One World Trade Center Bridge each attracted between 2 and 3 million visitors per year. And although these three buildings are all famous in their own right, for the new towers whose name is not recognized as One Vanderbilt, developed by SL Green, and 30 Hudson Yards, developed by Related, an observation platform might help confer it. It’s also a glowing and glitzy status symbol and a great opportunity to outdo other developers.
Over the past few years, this competition has grown into an entertaining spectacle in its own right, as the buildings feature ever more cheesy (and spectacular) antics to grab visitors and attention – as if gazing at the Manhattan skyline n wasn’t exciting enough. Even the wait for the elevator ride is now an “immersive” part of the “experience” – usually involving some sort of building or city history and lots of Instagrammable moments. The Empire State Building, for example, has a mockup of King Kong’s hand knocking through the wall. The World Trade Center elevator, dubbed SkyPod, “offers a panoramic experience that takes passengers through 500 years of New York history.” On the way down, it simulates a walk outside the building. There are false-glass floors with real-time streams from the street below, and real glass floors and mirrored floors. That’s enough to make a person want coin-operated binoculars and a spike fence.
The language used to sell tickets is also very appropriate. “New York’s most transformational experience is Summit One Vanderbilt,” the website claims, describing the dizzying immersive experience called Air by Kenzo Digital (remember to avoid skirts, or at least wear shorts bike below, to defend yourself against those mirrored floors). Of course, inadvertently showing off his underwear now seems quite tame compared to Spider-Man’s budding feat of peeling the skin off a skyscraper. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and an achievement you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” suggests the Edge website. (Climbing up and down a 161-step staircase with a harness sounds cool, but it’s not the accomplishment of a lifetime for anyone not acrophobic.) Still, it’s hard to imagine where the decks of observation can go from here. A climb without a harness? A 100-story tower in an open-air elevator? Or perhaps the most daring move of all: to make the upper floors of a skyscraper a place where you can experience something that is not an “experience”? The crown of the Chrysler Building is undergoing its own transformation, not into a mockery of the most death-defying experience to date, but into a new iteration of the Cloud Club, the Art Deco lunch spot that closed at the end of the 1970s. Nervous.