Curious reader Bruce Smithwick, who can see the clocktower atop the old MetLife building on Madison Square Park from his apartment builing, wrote in asking why it had suddenly gone dark at night, leaving the city's smattering of nighttime lights bereft of a landmarked icon that dates back to 1909. Smithwick also noticed scaffolding affixed to the side of the tower. "We are concerned that the lights have been turned off permanently," he wrote. "That would be a major loss for the Manhattan skyline."
Some backstory: The clocktower is currently being converted into a Marriott property called the New York Edition Hotel, so we figured the change was due to some construction and followed up with Marriott. Turns out we were right?the lights are off, but somebody is at home.
Marriott rep Catherine Leitner responded to our query with this emailed comment: "We're in the process of completely restoring/upgrading the exterior of the building including all of the infrastructure inside (electrical, etc.). This process will take some time, of course, but the result will be a state-of-the-art, almost brand-new building. There is no set time table for the completion but it will likely be around the opening of the hotel, in 2014. We're very excited about this project and what The New York EDITION means for the neighborhood and the city."
Studio 54 founder and boutique hotel wizard Ian Schrager, who is developing the hotel with Marriott, is apparently quite tight-lipped when it comes to divulging details about in-progress projects, but we've already learned that the hotel will have 355 rooms and extras like a restaurant, a banquet space, a spa, and a "clock machine room" to operate the beloved timekeeper.
So Bruce, and the rest of you skyline stalwarts, worry not. The hotel is scheduled to open a year earlier than previously reported, so all we have to do is wait in semi-darkness for awhile while workers update the clocktower's electrical system to be more energy-saving and environmentally friendly. After construction is complete, Leitner reassures, "The lights will largely look the same."
· Madison Avenue Clock Tower Hotel Will Open in 2015 [Curbed]
· 5 Madison Avenue coverage [Curbed]
· More Clock Tower coverage [Curbed]