The journey to and view from Manhattan’s Nelson Tower

I had a pretty exciting adventure yesterday afternoon. While taking pictures for an upcoming project I found myself at one of New York’s most visible yet rarely visited landmarks. I say rarely visited because in order to get there you need to take two elevators, enter a private penthouse office, climb up a 20 foot vertical ladder, have the building’s super struggle to push aside a wooden hatch cover for 5 minutes, and prop a workman’s ladder against a 12 foot parapet.

The most amazing thing about being on the roof of 450 7th Avenue, (also known as Nelson Tower, the tallest building in NYC’s Garment District), is that when you look up, pretty much the only thing you can see is sky. This is a strange feeling knowing you’re in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The roof itself isn’t flush with the top of the building, instead it sits about 12 feet below a retaining wall, cobwebbed with decades of unused or ailing electrical wiring and other rusting things I couldn’t identify.

It’s not until you prop up a ladder against the wall and start to climb before the expanse of the city takes shape beneath you. Being at the top of the ladder is a strangely exhilarating feeling that the photos don’t do justice to. Basically you’re balanced between two falls. Fall backward and you’ll break some bones. Fall forward and you’ll die. Bitchin.

In a related note, the super told stories of the roof’s popularity during the depression as a great place for forelorn businessmen to commit suicide. He even showed me the ladder they’d use, laying on the ground covered in rust and mold. I’d never seen a “suicide ladder” before, but I’ll be damned if I see ever another ladder that looks more suicide-y.

The building’s super climbing…

…and opening the hatch.

Setting up the ladder on the roof.

Bringing the ladder to the parapet.

Keep reading for more photos…

Notice a building in the background?

The only other building you can see before climbing the ladder.

The super trying it first.

Climbing over.

Looking down…(That’s Macy’s, by the way)

Victory! A very rare photo of the Empire State Building.

The suicide ladder…

That’s all folks!

Comments (9)

  1.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    Wow- fantastic!

  2.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    Really great writing and photography. I love seeing parts of NYC for the first time that I’ve never seen before.

    Plus, a suicide ladder! Good work!

  3.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    Great pics! I love NYC!

  4.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    nice! I wish I can do that! Have the cameras but don’t know people like that heheh how you got access??

    I see you like to boost a lot!.. like me! beware of color noise! I can see it in the sky!

    My D300 is very good with noise reduction..

  5.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    Cool photos =^_^=
    But anyway ya a piece of shit with vacuum instead brains

  6.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    gomennasai, I retract my latest post

  7.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    But pics are really sugoi X)

  8.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    Mike: I have a small blog
    here in my country and can I post some of these photos?
    I’ll write the credits (is that correct) or the name of your site…please?I read you work with wine…well i live near south 30° parallel -see it-translate maybe…

  9.  Rate Comment Up Rate Comment Down  error|1

    Hi Roger – please feel free to use the photographs as long as you link back to this page. Enjoy!

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