6. There’s an Abandoned Bank Vault
35 feet below underground, you’ll find the operations side of the Empire State Building in the basement. It’s the “heart of the building” Siobhan declares, “It’s like a city within a city.” Within this level contains the electricians, the steam plant (more on that later), the locksmith, the laundry and dry cleaning facility, the carpenters and more.
Amidst large storage units in this basement level is what’s left of a bank vault that belonged to the bank that originally rented out the entire second floor of the building. The bank requested that the bank vault be added in — a stipulation the Empire State Building was ready to acquiesce to as tenants were in demand during the Great Depression. (The bank isn’t a tenant anymore but the building has one original tenant still in operation, Empire Diamonds!)
The steel ceilings of the bank vault still exist but the safe deposit boxes were taken out in the late ’90s. The vault is “so heavy and really essentially part of the building now, says Siobhan, “That’s one of the reasons why it’s still here.” There’s an elevator that was installed just for access to the vault, which goes from this level to the second floor bank level (and a stop in the lobby) so that bank employees “wouldn’t have to take public elevators.”