The heights of vanity? The New York-Chicago skyscraper duel

Competition between Chicago and New York over which city has the tallest building.


Watch Video

HARI SREENIVASAN: In tonight’s “Connection,” – sizing up which city has the tallest building in America.

That title now officially belongs to New York’s One World Trade Center -- news celebrated in the Big Apple this week after a ruling by something known as the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

The group’s heights committee – that’s it real name -- determined that the New York tower actually does measure a symbolic 1776 feet from the ground floor to the very top of its spire, just as its builders intended.

But that’s hardly the end of the story.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel says his city’s Willis Tower, long known as the Sears Tower, should still be ranked number 1, just as it was for decades.

After all, he says you can go to the top of that building to enjoy the views, unlike One World Trade Center.

Emanuel points out that the New York building actually would be 83 feet shorter than the Willis Tower if you didn’t count its spire – something he dismisses as nothing more than an antenna.

RAHM EMANUEL: I’d just say this to all the experts they gathered in one room. If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then guess what? It is an antenna. For all those who want to climb on top of an antenna and take a look, go ahead.  I would suggest you stay indoors and take a look.

New York comedienne Michelle Balan says this sort of dispute -- about what’s sometimes referred to as vanity height -- is really only about fragile male egos. She has an idea how to end what she thinks is a ridiculous debate.

MICHELLE BALAN: You know what? We need female mayors, ‘cause they would go, “what do you think is more attractive? I think this building is way more attractive and we should adorn it with a few other things.”

For now, the mayor of New York, listed at 5 foot eight, can declare victory over the mayor of Chicago, listed at 5-7.