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Some New Yorkers can change the colors of skyscraper spires with this invite-only app

But Spireworks may have gotten too big for its own good

A skyscraper and several city buildings against a purple and blue sky in the evening. Chris Goldberg/Curbed Flickr Pool

If you have forever longed to control the glittering lights city’s evening skyline, great news! Now you can—assuming you know the right people.

According to the Wall Street Journal, New York’s “latest exclusive club” is a “much-whispered-about” free app called Spireworks, which, true to its name, allows users to control the the colors of the lights atop One Bryant Park (aka the Bank of America Tower) and 4 Times Square. (Control of One World Trade Center is also available on special occasions.)

Each night, after sunset, the WSJ explains, users can “log in, choose a building and select from a palette of colors during a two-minute session.” Cloud-hosted software sorts all the requests, tells the lights what to do, and voila—you are, very briefly, in control of the skyline. Or at least, you soon will be: only five users are allowed to actively change the colors at a time. On busy nights, you’ll have to wait. On Fourth of July, for example, the wait was close to half an hour, and that was for a limited color palette of red, white, and blue.

But gaining access to the app isn’t so simple, the WSJ warns:

The only way to join is to be invited by a current user, so access has spread through an unlikely network of colleagues, friends and denizens of the city’s rooftop bars. Among fans, invites remain a precious commodity, creating a new class of haves and have-nots.

And so, as it always does, a black market for invites has popped up online, where invites can sell for more than $100. The app owner, digital-media artist Mark Domino—who is also, importantly, the son-in-law of real-estate tycoon Douglas Durst, whose family company owns the two towers in question—recently asked that Tinder take down a profile “hawking a Spireworks invite for $1,000.”

In fact, Domino himself, who works as director of digital media at Durst, isn’t thrilled with what the WSJ calls the app’s “velvet-rope vibe.” The app grew slowly and organically for a while: Domino wrote the code seven years ago, and his father-in-law first debuted the app at a Durst holiday party in 2010. Durst employees invited a few people, who each got a few more invites to give away. In the past year, though, the app’s numbers have increased dramatically; there are now nearly 10,000 members of Spireworks’ inadvertently chi-chi club.

To maintain his vision — not for a secret light society, but for an “open system to share in moments of discovery and play” — Domino says he’s considering ditching the invitation system altogether, instead offering access through charitable donations. (Durst has apparently had “preliminary discussions” with possible charity partners, but has not named them.) For the moment, though, it’s invite-only.

People are drawn to the app for all kinds of reasons: the power, the exclusivity, the fact that, like Everest, it is there. Spireworks has been enlisted for gender reveal announcements and apartment sales and marriage proposals. Also, for sex. The WSJ reports that Domino has been somewhat “dismayed” by how many of the app’s fans are “young men who want to use it to pick up women.” It is not immediately clear from the article whether any women have successfully been seduced.