|July 13th, 2006, 05:14 PM||#1|
Join Date: Sep 2002
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ESB Beckons Until 2 am
Toward 2 A.M. the View Is at Hand, but the City Is Merely a Backdrop
By EMILY VASQUEZ
13 July 2006
The New York Times
Midnight at the Empire State Building. Gone are the long lines, the strollers and the tour bus crowds. Instead, at 1,050 feet, with rain clouds colored pink, romance abounds.
With the lights of Wall Street glimmering in the distance, Kevin Livingston, 28, of Queens, takes advantage of the setting.
He turns to Charlotte Harrison, 27, who is also from Queens and who has been dating him for three weeks. ''Will you be my girlfriend?'' he asks. Then he declares that even New York City's lights have nothing on her.
On the east deck another couple, more serious, are locked in a tight embrace.
Yes, she has just whispered. Yes, of course she will be his wife.
The couple, Aisha, 25, and Imran, 32, who would give only their first names, met on Naseeb.com, a Muslim social networking site. Six months' worth of e-mail messages later -- Aisha from Montreal, Imran from London -- they made plans to meet for the first time in New York.
Now, atop the Empire State Building, they share their first kiss, and Imran whispers the proposal in Aisha's ear.
While many of the city's most popular attractions -- the Statue of Liberty, the Bronx Zoo -- have been closed for hours, the Empire State still beckons. And this year the arrival of warmer nights coincides with the pushing back of the observation deck's closing, to 2 a.m. from midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 9. Tickets, $16 for adults, may be bought anytime during the day on which they are to be used.
At that late -- or early -- hour in the summer, the platform becomes a lovers' lane for couples in search of a late-night view. Their idea, of course, is nothing new -- from ''An Affair to Remember'' to ''Sleepless in Seattle,'' the platform has been a classic stage.
How many proposals could the observation deck have seen in its 75 years?
Mira Akerman, 34, who flew to New York from Sweden for her wedding, has come to the top for a postnuptial kiss with new husband, Martin Nilsson, 33. Running out on the deck, still in her white wedding dress, she explains, ''It's such a New York thing to do.''
Hector Rosado, 43, a security guard on duty, says the atmosphere 86 floors up definitely changes at night.
''With the night lights it's different,'' he says. ''They enjoy the view. I mean they really enjoy it.''
Two more New Yorkers, Adam Bogan, 30, a financial adviser at J. P. Morgan, and his companion, Sarah Yatto, 27, who works at Bloomingdale's, stumbled upon the still-open attraction after dinner in the neighborhood.
''It's dark, it's foggy, it's kind of smoky -- the city looks mysterious,'' Ms. Yatto says, looking uptown from underneath their shared umbrella.
Mr. Bogan agrees. ''If there was a bar, we'd be here all the time,'' he says.
Still, not everyone finds it romantic. Naomi Pate, a student at the University of Georgia, heads inside to search for someone in her party who seems to have disappeared.
''I think he's afraid of heights,'' she says, alone for the moment on the east deck.
Students visiting from George Washington University, Jay Bhatt, 19, and Priya Patel, 20, look toward Times Square.
''It's just so peaceful,'' Mr. Bhatt says. ''You have time to think.''
According to Bob Zorn, director of the observatory, guards working at night had been turning visitors away at midnight for years -- people who had come from Broadway shows or a romantic dinner. The new closing hours are an experiment, to see how much interest there will be. ''If it's successful as we feel it will be,'' Mr. Zorn said, ''we'll continue to do it.''
On this night, John Lee arrives at the deck about 1:15 with a dozen travel mates, many of them from Korea. ''We weren't aware it was open that late,'' he says.
They are part of an organization called the Christian Gospel Mission and are touring the United States. Mr. Lee, 38, from Los Angeles, is interpreting. The group poses for pictures, the East Side's lights their backdrop, and then their leader, Joeun Jung, starts a prayer.
''She was so moved by all the beautiful light,'' Mr. Lee said afterward. ''Each light represented a person or a family or a group.''