Apparently, the secret test worked. No images of the Empire State Building alight that night appeared anywhere, as far as Malkin knows.
To stage the show, he worked with Clear Channel radio, which has 239 million monthly listeners in the United States.
The lights are part of a larger effort to modernize the 81-year-old edifice that is undergoing a more than half a billion-dollar renovation that includes making it "green." The computerized LED system will cut energy consumption by more than half, while delivering light and vibrancy superior to the old floodlights, which have huge timpani drum-size lenses that had to be changed every so often, O'Donnell said.
They may still have nostalgic value to some who watched them light up New York City for every special occasion from Christmas to the Fourth of July.
They were part of "the grande dame of the New York skyline, now state-of-the-art, but still stately," says Malkin, adding that the light show was "a gift we gave to the world, these lights. We don't get paid for this."
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, with a spectacular view of the new World Trade Center and New York Harbor, a vacant space under reconstruction on the building's 72nd floor was filled with the retired floodlights, sitting side by side in long lines, veterans of years of New York weather. What will be done with them is also a secret — for now.
One old light will not be discarded in favor of a 21st century novelty: a red beacon — "half the size of a Volkswagen Beetle," as Malkin puts it — that serves as a warning signal for aircraft constantly flying over New York City.