This month in real estate history

A look back at some of New York City's biggest real estate stories
By Adam Pincus | October 01, 2013 07:00AM

1972: Empire State Building addition mulled

Peter Malkin

Peter Malkin

The owners of the Empire State Building publicly indicated that they were considering adding 11 floors to the 102-story tower 41 years ago this month.

The declaration came after the iconic tower was eclipsed as the tallest building in the world by the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

Peter Malkin — an investor and manager of the building — said the owners were exploring the idea of demolishing the 16-story antennae tower at the top of the building as well as six of the top floors. They would then construct a new 33-story structure to top off the building. The new design would bring the building’s height to 1,494 feet, from 1,250 feet, and increase it to 113 stories.

“It is physically and financially feasible to do this, but we don’t yet have any definite decision,” Malkin told the New York Times.

The building, which was completed in 1931, was the tallest building in the world for nearly 40 years. But in 1971, the 110-story Twin Towers, at 1,368 feet, took the title, and the Sears Tower in Chicago was set to beat that within a few years.

The plan to increase the height of the Empire State Building, however, was never implemented.

1952: Third Lincoln tube ousts 900 families

10th Avenue in the early '50s

10th Avenue in the early ’50s

Government officials announced 61 years ago this month that more than 900 families would be displaced from Manhattan’s West Side to make way for the Lincoln Tunnel’s third tube.

The Port of New York Authority — today called the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — said it would purchase about 90 buildings that housed thousands of low-and middle-income residents and commercial tenants to make way for entrances and exits for the new $90 million tube. The buildings were between Ninth and 10th avenues and 30th and 41st streets. The demolition began in 1953.

The authority pledged to pay the families $100 each as well as up to $100 in brokers’ fees for relocation expenses. The 100 commercial tenants in the area received no assistance.

“We’ll never get rooms like we have here,” Marie Muller told the New York Times.

A Port Authority official later said more than 5,000 people were relocated because of the construction of the third tube. The tunnel’s first and second tubes opened in 1937 and 1945, respectively. The third tube, also known as the South Tube, opened in May 1957.

1907: The Plaza Hotel opens

The Plaza

The Plaza

The famed Plaza Hotel — located at 59th Street and Central Park South — opened its doors 106 years ago this month.

Financier Bernhard Beinecke, hotelier Frederic Sterry and builder Harry Black constructed the 19-story hotel for $12.5 million.

The hotel — which was built in the style of a French Renaissance chateau — not only provided rooms for overnight guests, but was home to many of the city’s wealthiest residents. (In those days it was common to live in hotels the way people live in apartments today.)

Alfred Vanderbilt, an heir to the wealthy family fortune, was the first guest to sign the hotel’s registry. Shortly before the Plaza opened, the New York Times reported that more than 50 percent of the rooms were spoken for by similar permanent residents, such as John Gates, an investor in the building who made a fortune from a barbed wire patent, and financier George Gould.

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s $5 million loan on the building was believed to be the highest ever for a hotel.

The Plaza’s exterior was designated a city landmark in 1969, while portions of its interior were landmarked in 2005. Today the Plaza includes both a hotel — owned by the India-based Sahara Group and the Saudi Arabian firm Kingdom Holdings — and residential condos.