The Empire State Building is privately owned, and as such, they can do whatever the hell they want — lighting themselves in pink and red for Valentine’s Day, or honoring the Simpsons, or whatever. So, when they said no to lights honoring Mother Teresa’s upcoming 100th birthday on August 26, it was well within their rights, even if the Catholic League and Christine Quinn implored them to pretty please do them this little favor. But the weird thing is that the building came forward today with a statement about why they wouldn’t light up for the most revered non-flying nun we can think of:
Per an email to NewYorkology by a member of the building’s PR staff:
“The Empire State Building celebrates many cultures and causes in the world community with iconic lightings, and has a tradition of lightings for the religious holidays of Easter, Eid al Fitr, Hanukah, and Christmas. As a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations,” reads the statement by Anthony E. Malkin of Malkin Holdings, which operates the skyscraper on behalf of building owner Empire State Building Company.
Which would be fine and dandy — like we said, they’re a private company, they can do pretty much what they want, except…according to the Catholic League, individual religious figures have, in fact, received the honor, with lights honoring the deaths of Cardinal John O’Connor in 2000 and Pope John Paul II in 2005.
Since a private company is in no way Mother Teresa (nor required to be), we can’t really hold them to telling the truth, though it’s nice when they do. And knowing what we do about private companies, we have to suspect that perhaps the dollars were not there to make this happen (did Fox really convince the building to light itself in yellow as a Simpsons Movie promo for free?). We’ll get back to you with what we find…
But, regardless, at the end of the day, this whole debate has brought more attention to Mother Teresa than some blue and white lights in the NYC skyline ever would have. Catholic League, your work is done.
Update: Per NewYorkology again, Marty Markowitz has stepped up to the plate, saying he will light up Brooklyn Borough Hall in blue and white on August 26. Aw.
“Borough Hall may not be as tall as the Empire State Building, but it is Brooklyn’s oldest public building — and one of the oldest in New York City — and what better place than our diverse borough to celebrate not only Mother Teresa but people and groups of all faiths — including Brooklyn’s large Catholic community — who have made great contributions to the world,” Markowitz said in a statement.