New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Color of Money

This appears to be a case of color by number, but no one appears to know what the numbers are.
One of the most commonly asked questions regarding the Empire State Building is the significance of the lighting colors and how the color schemes are decided. I wrote about the lighting schedule on March 27, 2007 in Equinox. The color schedule and meaning of the colors is easily found at the official ESB website.

In celebration of the NYU commencement, the color scheme was purple/purple/white (NYU's school colors are purple and white). The special lighting was further enhanced by the fact that the building could be seen looking up Fifth Avenue from Washington Square Park, NYU's de facto "campus."

The process as to how the decision is made, however, is shrouded in mystery. According to the New York Times, a spokesman for the Empire State Building said that the building “doesn’t discuss the intricacies of the lighting approval process.” Out of curiosity as to what is involved in having your choice of colors for lighting, I downloaded the Empire State Building Lighting Partner application. It is quite simple and straight forward. In the first paragraph you are told:

Selection as an Empire State Building Lighting Partner is at the sole discretion of the ownership and management of the Empire State Building Company L.L.C. The Empire State Building is a privately owned building—not owned by New York City or the State of New York—and, therefore, has its own policies. Selection as a Lighting Partner is a privilege, not an entitlement.

There is, however, no discussion of money, but the phrase "Lighting Partner" would lead one to believe that there is a cost. No crime there - after all, the building is a private enterprise.
There was some outrage recently when the building was lit red/yellow/red from September 30 through October 1, 2009, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Many speculated that it was strictly a decision based on what China was willing to pay.

NYU certainly has a lot of influence, clout and its share of controversy - see Gorillas and Cookies here. It also has a lot of money. And at least for the NYU commencement, purple is the color of money :)


Yeknom said...

For a daily update on the colors you can also subscribe to the twitter handle "esbcolors" or

Brian Dubé said...

I saw this Twitter feed. There is also a site for ESB colors using color graphics to depict the building's lighting schedules.

Judit said...

I wish someday I'd be a NYU girl
But that seems impossible...
As usual: love your post :)

T. Becque said...

This almost looks like one photo which gives it an interesting look!

Crystal said...

I love this! You're site is a daily dose of creativity and awesomeness =)

Anonymous said...

I just visited the blog and scrolled through some of the old posts before reaching this one, which gave me a smile for having privileged knowledge. Judging by the date of the post, I doubt anyone will read this, but you see... the cost of lighting the Empire State Building in a commemorative color scheme is One Dollar. So it was revealed a few years back in the Columbia Daily Spectator when Columbia inquired about the cost of coloring the building blue and white for their commencement. The only other "payment" that the building exacts from the honorees is a little publicity in the form of a promotional announcement-- but of course who wouldn't want to metaphorically tell all of his/her friends that the lights of the tallest building in NYC were glittering in his/her honor? Of course, the building management must feel that the building, in turn, benefits and is honored by the publicity that is generated. (Which alas does make me wonder a little about the anniversary of the PRC, but ah well...)