Today, one of my hometown’s most recognizable symbols turns 75. The Empire State Building has been standing as a prominent part of the New York City skyline since 1931 and providing colored lights since 1976 in celebration of the country’s bicentennial. Residents of New York have been experiencing a rare occurrence this weekend; the building has been dark in preparation for celebrations this week. The view for New Yorkers is a bit darker; though their patience will be rewarded with bright lights glowing from its crown come tomorrow night.
The view from my parents’ bedroom window definitely had an impact on my view of the built environment. It was of the East side, including every major structure in lower Manhattan. On a clear night, you could see the planes take off and land from LaGuardia Airport and know when both the Yankees and Mets were playing nighttime home games. The Empire State Building and Twin Towers of the World Trade Center dominated that view, and we enjoyed it as much as possible. I remember when I went home for the first time after 9/11 and the view seemed incomplete. I also remember being on the phone as the first building went down, trying to calm my mother down as she unfortunately commanded a clear view of the events from the window not knowing of its effects on the whereabouts of my brother, who still works about 1 ½ blocks away from the site. The buildings of the New York skyline have always embodied success and goal setting to those growing up in the city. The view has been altered for some, but the dreams remain. The tributes for one of the grand old ladies of the skyline remind us of the ability to dream and not settle.
The view from my current place of residence is similar to that which my brother and I enjoyed for years growing up. The bedroom view was not nearly as dramatic as our parents, but it did provide for some fun. We did enjoy one of the highest points of view in the outer boroughs of the city, with a view of signage as it lit up one of the busiest shopping districts in New York: Fordham Road. The street serves as the 3rd largest shopping district in the city of New York. I watch slivers of trains pass by the viaduct that sits outside off the main street here in Birmingham much in the same way I would watch the #4 train pull into and out of the elevated train station on Fordham Road. Instead of carrying people in search of deals on needed supplies, these trains carry the supplies in question. In both cases I must now focus to be able to hear the train pass as an evening without the sounds almost feel eerie.
I’ve also got a major institution of higher education sitting off in the distance. Here it is the now familiar skyline of Southside dominated by structures that make up the hulking campus of UAB, with Vulcan looking down upon the campus and the region. When home the Bronx allows me to look out and see parts of the Fordham University Rose Hill campus, most notably its tower dominating the expanse of green surrounding it and its Gothic designs. The crystal crown of the main building of the New York Botanical Gardens was also visible amid the urban and literal forests of the mainland (and on the home page for the site as well).
I always laugh when people ask me how different I must find living here compared to growing up in New York. Perspective has a great deal to do with it. I grew up in the greatest city in the world. I enjoyed the views it provided every night before I went to bed. The views from my window now are of hope and promise as a contender is stepping up and striving to be the leader in many respects in the Southeast. That’s a great view to have every night before bed as well.