The owner of the Empire State Building have refused entreaties by Catholic activists to light up the spire of the famous building on the night of August 25th, 2010 to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Mother Theresa.
Of Albanian extraction, Mother Theresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in what is now Skopje, the Republic of Macedonia. In 1950, the Catholic nun founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India and spent nearly 50 years running an orphanage and providing aid and comfort to the sick and dying as well as to the poor. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
Mother Theresa died on September 5, 1997. In 2003, she was beatified by the late Pope John Paul II . He bestowed the the title “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” on her.
The refusal to light the spire to honor the 100th anniversary of her birth is the second controversy that the Empire State Building has been embroiled in this week. The owner of what was the world’s tallest building from 1931 to 1970 is trying to block the construction of a massive office building that would overwhelm the local skyline and ruin midtown New York cityscapes that have been iconic for 80 years.
Anthony Malkin, the owner of what is arguably America’s most famous building, has a policy of refusing to light up the Empire State Building spire to honor religious-connected events. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights has attacked Malkin as being anti-Catholic, despite his blanket refusal to honor any religion. Donohue wanted the spire to be lighted blue, the color of the future saint’s religious order.
Catholics for Choice, an organization at odds with the Catholic League, praised Malkin for sticking to his guns.
A statement issued by the group declared, “Mother Teresa rarely celebrated her birthday herself, and would, we are sure, be appalled to hear that this anniversary of her birth had been used to create such a storm.”
The statement then put in a dig against the head of the Catholic League.
“There are many ways to mark the life of Mother Teresa, and true to form Mr. Donohue has chosen the wrong one.”
Donohue denounced Catholics for Choice as being part of a “lunatic fringe,” according to the New York Daily News. He charged that the group hates his group “because we defend the Catholic church.”
15 Penn Plaza
In a related development, Anthony Malkin opposes the Vornado Realty Trust Project that plans to erect a massive, 1,216 foot-high office building at 15 Penn Plaza, just two blocks away from the Empire State Building.
Malkin’s family has had an ownership interest in the Empire State Building for many years.
The top of the proposed building is just 34 feet lower than the Empire State Building’s 102nd-floor observatory. It would block views of New York’s most famous building, which since the destruction of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers on 9/11 ranks as the city’s tallest.
The big building would obscure the Empire State Building, which has dominated its part of New York for nine decades.
“It would cast a shadow all the way to the Empire State Building,” the Connecticut Post reported the Greenwich, Connecticut-based Malkin as saying. “If you were to lay the building down on its side, it would hit the Empire State Building.”
The Vornado Realty Trust project has passed the zoning board approval process, which granted it a variance on the size and setbacks of a building. The project is strong opposed by the Community Board for Midtown Manhattan.
William Donohue has scheduled a protest at the Empire State Building by the Catholic League and other interested parties on August 26th.
The New York Times quoted Donohue as saying, “It’s simply an outrage that they would turn down our request to honor Mother Teresa when in the past they have lit up the building to honor Communist China and the DVD release of The Simpsons Movie.”
A spokesman for Anthony Malkin said that although the Empire State Building spire is lighted annually to honor Christmas and Hanukkah, the building’s by-laws “state clearly that we do not accommodate requests for religious figures or requests by religions.”
Connecticut Post, “Greenwich’s Malkin fights off Empire State Building challenger”
New York Daily News, “Catholics for Choice praises Empire State Building owner for snub of Mother Teresa birthday lighting “
New York Times, “Protest Set on Mother Teresa Decision”