Determined to learn what a widely known piece of real estate could say about New York’s future, The Times formed a team of more than a dozen reporters and editors to comb through vacancy listings, track down and interview tenants and spend more than three months building an interactive visual feature that would illustrate the building’s current occupants. The article was published online last week.
Though the model uses cutting-edge graphics software, Mr. Collins said that producing it would have been impossible without shoe-leather reporting. For about six weeks, Mr. Collins; Mr. Haag, a reporter on the Metro desk; Peter Eavis, a business reporter who covers companies and markets; and Barbara Harvey, a news assistant, called and emailed companies that listed addresses in the Empire State Building. They verified which ones were in the building and asked them about their return-to-office plans during the pandemic. Ms. Harvey made the bulk of the calls, while Mr. Haag and Mr. Eavis tried to parse leases and sublet deals for some of the biggest tenants, like LinkedIn and Global Brands Group.
“We thought it was going to be a very rigid survey that just gave us data to use to tell the story,” Mr. Collins said. “But a lot of the best quotes in the story came from making those calls.”
While the reporters were tracking down tenants, Karthik Patanjali, a special projects editor for graphics at The Times, was leading a team building the 3-D model. The exterior of the skyscraper was the straightforward part: The team relied on publicly available 3-D models of the City of New York and Google Street View data. The interior was a trickier affair, built piecemeal from in-person visits, interviews with tenants, vacancy listings, promotional materials and public filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.