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"Infinite sprawl..."

On a hazy day, New York City stretches on indefinitely: infinity sprawling out like a somnolent feline. Clouds cast a bone-white hue on the tops of skyscrapers that jut out of the landscape: their axis-mundi-aspirations propelling them skyward. The day languidly yawns, its heavy eyelids blurring the horizon.

Despite growing up in New York City, I hadn’t been to the tops of any of the iconic skyscrapers with observation decks since I was very, very little. The Top of the Rock is an observation deck on the top of Rockefeller Center. It closed in 1986 for renovations and reopened in 2005. When I was younger, I went on a few school trips to Rockefeller Center to go on the NBC Studios tour which was a lot of fun but since it was the late 80s and early 90s, the top was closed to visitors. In recent years, I decided to finally visit the Top of the Rock.

The Top of the Rock is the top of what is also known as the GE Building. It’s an Art Deco skyscraper that is in the center of Rockefeller Center. The GE Building used to be known as the RCA Building until the mid 1980s when GE incorporated RCA and NBC. The building is 850 feet tall (70 stories) and since the address is 30 Rockefeller Center, it is usually referred to as “30 Rock”.

What I find really incredible about the observation decks at Top of the Rock aside from the views is that there is so much room. There are three observation decks in total and all three are designed to resemble the upper decks of a 1930s luxury ocean liner complete with deck chairs. Two of the decks on the the 67th and 69th floors include outdoor terraces which are enclosed in transparent, safety glass. The top deck which is on the 70th floor features a completely open air, unobstructed 360-degree view of New York City and beyond.

The day I went, there were barely any people up on the top deck with me since the weather wasn’t ideal. However, I think it’s often less crowded than the Empire State Building’s observation deck even in beautiful weather. At 850 feet above street level, the view is jaw-dropping and includes complete views of Central Park and the Empire State Building which you can’t really complain about.

New York Photography: Skyscrapers of the New York City skyline.

You can view this post along with information about where to purchase prints of this image if you wish at my site here:

Tags: #photography #nyc #newyorkcity #skyline #nycskyline #newyorkcityphotography #cityscape #writing #city #urban #empirestatebuilding #manhattan #architecture #skyscrapers
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Yes, that's exactly right! A somnolent feline. I can't tell you how many times I have thought that exact thing.
Infinite sprawl is actually how I refer to my hometown. I just add: "suburban/strip mall" in the middle. True story. :( But you inspire me to look for what may be hidden there.
Beautiful image as always, Vivienne, and very interesting writing.
I worked right across the street from 30 Rock for years +Vivienne Gucwa ... never got to go up... now I want to, thanks to you LOL. Wanna do a mini-photowalk there? ;)
+Samir Osman - Thanks! Yeah, I was blown away when I realized how much better the views are and how comfortable it is up on Top of the Rock vs. the Empire State Building (so much space up there!).
+PJ Ammidon - Hah, really? You will be so surprised when you go up there especially if you go on a non-weekend day. So much room to just enjoy the view. I do find it odd that they don't allow tripods given the room but I don't ever use a tripod (bad habit!). We could go at some point! :)
I'm with you on the tripod thing ;) We need a Rooftops of NYC Photowalk!!
+Andi Drew - I am really fascinated with suburban sprawl and its impact on residents. I like to refer to viewing NYC from above as the infinite sprawl as a tongue-in-cheek way to reference the opposite effect (what you referred to). :)
Skyscraper with view
But only with wheel chair
+Vivienne Gucwa As a lifelong resident of an area that keeps expanding and attracting people from all over the country, I have been mulling over the impact for quite a while. I feel like there is no sense of real community here, or even pockets of community, like I would imagine in a place like NYC. We have the most retail space in the U.S., but even in neighborhoods, people stay locked up in their houses and drive 20+ minutes to work. And yet there is so much green. We still have trees.
+Andi Drew - It's hard to foster community when residents are so removed from each other. However, I do think NYC suffers less from that but in some ways, it can be easy to be completely anonymous and shut off from people in NYC as well since everything is so convenient. For example, you can literally have your groceries, all meals, laundry, household items, beauty items delivered if you have the money and inclination. It's interesting to think about!

An article about Americans and why they don't walk more than they do which is directly related to urban planning and suburban (and urban) sprawl came out recently which sort of blew my mind:

Even the comment section was eye-opening for me since as a NYer I am so used to walking everywhere and yet much of America isn't 'set up' for that sort of pedestrian lifestyle due to a variety of economic and cultural factors. Fascinating.
Thank you +Vivienne Gucwa Yes, planning seems to be the key word when it comes to creating a 'walking' culture. However, suburban-unplanning seems to be the rule here and I have despaired over it for years. There is no planning, just patching together more malls, mega-strip malls, office parks and parking lots with a spattering of housing in between. We finally got some sidewalk in front of our house...but many of the residents were against sidewalks for years. And this subdivision is 30 years old! Will check out the Slate link.
Okay, so now I have skyscraper/big city envy, +Vivienne Gucwa! :o)

Not an original thought, but what an amazing view! It's hard for me to even begin to comprehend this many tall buildings in one place -- I think we maybe have 10 in Tulsa & I'm probably stretching that.

Although I'd thoroughly enjoy a visit to the "big city", I must admit I love my wide open spaces & would be hard pressed to leave them.

Marvelous description of your trip to the Top of the Rock -- never knew it existed. Do people really hang out in the deck chairs? Love the idea, but seems a bit odd. Thank you, yet again, for sharing your love for NYC -- it is such fun to tour it vicariously with you!
"..... and photo shop casts a whole bunch of ugly all over this picture."
Vivienne, how long does it typically take you to write the posts that accompany your images? Sometimes your narrations are reflective, other times they are educational. And then there are days like today where your post accomplishes both, and also forces me to hit the dictionary a few times... After meeting you last weekend, I know you don't consider yourself a celebrity; but it should be noted that your artistry tells its own story, and puts you in a league all your own. Thank you for not only being so down-to-Earth and humble, but for also sharing your knowledge with others passionate about learning to translate what they shoot into what they envision it can become!
+Max Lanz - That's fairly amusing considering that I don't use photoshop. However, if your snarky comment was meant to instead imply that this was edited in editing software after the fact, yes, yes it was. To each their own Max. Have a great day!
+Kari Johnson - There is something to be said for wide open spaces, definitely!

I always wonder how those who haven't seen such sights in person process and take all of NYC in. I was one of a few people who showed a few people around NYC last weekend who had never been to NYC before and I was quietly in awe of their reactions to the various sights. I am sure my and other big city dweller(s) reactions would be just as fascinating when viewing the beautiful wide open landscapes out west to people who are accustomed to such glorious views :).
+Andi Drew - Oh, you will probably love the Slate link then given your last comment about lack of sidewalks and suburban un-planning. I find that a lot of development (even here in NYC to some extent) is short-sighted.
Your words did such a wonderful job of painting the scene that I could almost see the gorgeous cityscape you've captured here, before looking at this marvelous photo!

Your love for your city is chronicled in this post, via your immense talent, once again +Vivienne Gucwa.
+Shannon Adelson - That's really sweet of you to say! It was awesome to meet you and your wife last weekend and walk around NYC for many, many hours and miles :).

It doesn't take me very long to write. If it is poetry/prose, it usually takes me 10-15 minutes. If it is a post like this where I go more into detail or talk about a memory, it may take me 20 minutes to a half hour tops. I am a fast writer!
Excellent love to watch your pics from NY and also the stories with that too... just lovely.
Vivienne Gucwa recibe mis felicitaciones por esas fotos tan espectaculares!. Te pido permiso para copiar algunas de ellas para colocarlas en mi pagina. De antemano muchas gracias. TE ADMIRO.
+Francis Block - That's a sad experience. I would have to say, living here in the city, I don't really view things that way and it doesn't always smell and isn't all dirty. It's one of the reasons I enjoy posting my photography of NYC to challenge those enduring stereotypes.
The GE building was one of my many favorites last weekend! It was so awesome! This is making me miss your town very much! I can't wait to come back and explore more.
+fraggle bloke I'm sorry your trip to the city was a bad one. We were there for 4 days I never once felt unsafe or smelled anything foul. I thought it was as clean as any other big city I have been to and every person we had contact with was very nice. Well there was one biker who was a little perturbed we were walking in the bike lane...but that was one person in all the time we were there!
Always been one of my favorite Art Deco buildings - LOVE to make it up to the deck one day. Thanks for sharing the view & your well crafted words +Vivienne Gucwa :)
josh h
i went morning and sunset last november for the first time. the sunset trip was crowded.
+josh h - Yeah, it's usually very, very crowded at sunset and worse on the weekends especially if the sky is clear :).
This photo brings the feeling one has when comming eastbound on the LIE towards the midtown tunnel it feels almost like free falling every time I approach the City.
+Kerri Murdock - Interesting! I am not familiar with that route being a non-car person. Free-falling is an interesting term to relate to this though!
A classic very good shot of the "big apple"!!!
beautiful city :)
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