The view looking south from the Empire State Building around 1931. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The view in 2011:
For all of the changes that have taken place in New York City over the past 80 years, these two photos really don’t look all that different. The buildings in lower Manhattan have certainly become taller, but even many of the skyscrapers from the 1931 photo are still there. In the center foreground, many of the buildings along Fifth Avenue are still there, including the Flatiron Building, which was old even when the first photo was taken. The Statue of Liberty is still there on the right in the distance, although the far left side has one major change: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island. Both views give an idea of the massive scale of the Empire State Building; the first was taken around the time the building was completed, and it towered over everything else in Midtown – even the 21-story Flatiron Building looks diminutive when viewed from here. When the second photo was taken in 2011, the Empire State Building was still the tallest in the city, although it had been surpassed by both World Trade Center towers from 1972 to 2001, and in 2013 it would again be surpassed by the new World Trade Center building, which is visible under construction in this 2011 view.