There is more than one MetLife building in Manhattan. In this article, we are focusing on MetLife building located on 44th Street and Park Ave. in Midtown Manhattan (formerly called the Pan Am building). This structure is so prominent in the city, it is one of the most noticeable skyscrapers in the city.
It was considered an engineering feat to build, as structural design commanded that this 59 story structure had to lay directly over Grand Central Train station and it was the talk of the town in 1963 when construction started. A project never before done in this capacity.
It’s lobby connects via escalator straight down to the main atrium of Grand Central. On a cold day, one can enter the station from 42nd st and walk inside to exit at 45th st. A nice cover when it snows or rains.
At the time, it was the worlds largest corporate structure comprising 2.4 million square feet and configured for shopping available in the building to accommodate the tenants, all of whom are corporate workers (no residential accommodations).
The roof of the building was used as a heliport in 1966 for transportation to John F. Kennedy International Airport. There was heated opposition by then Mayor Koch, who considered it too dangerous, due to its close proximity to the large populous down below. However, the heliport did move on and remained a heliport for two years, before they canceled it due to lack of revenue.
In 1987, the heliport was reopened again, but when one of the helicopter’s rotor blades fell off and landed on the ground, it was immediately cancelled. Five people were killed in this tragedy.
As per Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic for The New York Times stated, “A $100 million building cannot really be called cheap,” she wrote in 1963. “But Pan Am is a colossal collection of minimums.”
The MetLife building remains a distinctive icon in Midtown and is worth visiting if you are from out of town, or even if you are a New Yorker.