A rendering of the proposed Lunch atop a Skyscraper experience. Courtesy of Tishman Speyer Properties.

You know that famous photograph of ironworkers eating lunch on a steel girder hanging high above midtown Manhattan? In an effort to wring more juice out of one of New York’s most popular tourist attractions, developers are proposing a new ride at Rockefeller Center that will allow visitors to recreate that 1932 photo—albeit in a safer manner. 

Planned for the building’s 69th-floor observation deck as part of its “Top of Rock” experience, the proposed attraction would pack guests on a replica steel beam, elevate them into the air for selfies, and then rotate around to provide a panoramic view of the city.

A rendering of the proposed Lunch atop a Skyscraper experience. Courtesy of Tishman Speyer Properties.

The idea came from Tishman Speyer Properties, a real estate firm that’s been responsible for redeveloping the Art Deco building for decades, and is just one of a spate of proposals for the property, including a giant globe that changes color when visitors arrive, or a new viewing platform for the 70th floor. The New York Landmarks Preservation Commission heard the proposals on September 14. (A document detailing all of the enhancements has since been made public by the commission.)

“With these changes, we’re looking to tell the story of Rockefeller Center in a new way that will bring people back to discover what Rockefeller Center symbolizes: a beacon in the city, a place with incredible history, a place that is of the city, and that provides this beautiful and unique perspective on this city,” Tishman Speyer managing director E.B. Kelly said at a community board meeting, according to 6sqft, which first reported the news. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will have to approve Tishman Speyer’s plans before construction can start. 

The real estate firm’s suggested enhancements to Rockefeller Center come as other New York buildings have entered into the observation deck game. A 100-story tall platform opened in Hudson Yards last year, while both the Chrysler Building and One Vanderbilt are constructing their own offerings. 

Lunch atop a Skyscraper (1932).

Lunch atop a Skyscraper, as the original picture is called, was taken on September 20, 1932, when 11 ironworkers assisting in the construction of the RCA building (now called the G.E. building) crawled out onto a steel beam some 850 feet above Rockefeller Plaza for a photo op. 

The image, once an emblem of American achievement and its behind-the-scenes heroes, today reads more like a symbol of labor exploitation and an early piece of real estate propaganda (which makes its potential reinvention particularly ironic). 

The shot, commissioned by Rockefeller Center management to promote the development project, first appeared in the October 2 edition of the New York Herald Tribune.

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