At around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, people at One Vanderbilt felt the midtown tower’s 93 floors shake in unison. Some employees voluntarily evacuated the building, but those fleeing their offices had little clarity about what was going on. As The Real Deal later reported, workers were performing a software update on the Summit observatory elevator when the car fell three stories and landed on a spring, which made the building shake. In a statement to tenants, SL Green wrote that there was “no impact to building systems or infrastructure,” and the Department of Buildings confirmed there were no structural stability issues.
No problem, then! We spoke to someone (who wished to remain anonymous) who was working at the time of what I’m calling The Big Shake about what it was like when one minute you’re giving prayer-hands emoji on Slack to Debbie at accounting and the next the floor suddenly feels like it’s dropping out. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What did the shake feel like?
I’m on the 50th floor looking south. We feel and hear a lot of construction in the building, but this was different. It came from above and it felt like the floor just dropped and then started bouncing. It was such a weird strong feeling. It didn’t feel like an earthquake — it wasn’t side to side, the floor moved up and down. It honestly felt like a plane had crashed into us. The first thing I did was to look down and see if I saw any smoke around the building.
How were people reacting as this is happening?
We all looked at each other and were like: “Grab your stuff, we’re leaving.” We jumped into the elevator and went downstairs. It stopped at 49 and there was a crowd of people doing the same thing, but the elevator was full. We got down to the bottom and we just left the building. It wasn’t pure panic — no one was running out the building, from what I saw — but we were all like, “Let’s be safe and get out of here.”
What was the building’s response?
We got an email yesterday from the building at 5 p.m. that basically said, “to all tenants of One Vanderbilt, we apologize for the inconvenience,” and that the vibration was caused by a malfunction in the exterior Summit elevator. I felt better, honestly. The way it felt, it does make sense if an elevator dropped that it would shake the building that way. But that elevator doesn’t go all the way up; the fact that that made the entire building shake doesn’t feel great.
I can imagine.
We pay a lot of money for that office, the rental square-footage price is astronomical, and it just doesn’t make you feel too comfortable.
Are you going back into the office?
As far as I know, no one went to the office today. I’ll probably go back tomorrow. I’m not too concerned. I was more worried it was a terrorist-attack kind of thing — that was my first instinct.