Tightrope Stuntman Nik Wallenda Eyes NYC, With Walk Between Chrysler, Empire State Buildings

Wallenda crossed a gorge near the Grand Canyon in Arizona on Sunday

Monday, Jun 24, 2013  |  Updated 10:18 PM CDT
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The tightrope walker who crossed an Arizona gorge on a 2-inch-thick cable is eyeing New York City as his next stunt, hoping to cross between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. New Yorkers have mixed reactions to the idea. Roseanne Colletti reports.

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The tightrope walker who crossed an Arizona gorge on a 2-inch-thick cable is eyeing New York City as his next stunt, hoping to cross between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. New Yorkers have mixed reactions to the idea. Roseanne Colletti reports.

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The tightrope walker who crossed an Arizona gorge on a 2-inch-thick cable is eyeing New York City as his next stunt, hoping to cross between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings.

Nik Wallenda said Sunday that he wanted to brave the heights of Manhattan, shortly after crossing the Little Colorado River Gorge, 1,500 feet above the ground, in northeastern Arizona near the Grand Canyon.

The Chrysler Building, which stands 1,050 feet tall on 42nd Street, is a little over half a mile from the Empire State Building, which is on 34th Street and is 1,454 feet tall.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday that officials would not allow such a feat, which could put "thousands of New Yorkers at risk."

"I don't think it would be wise," he told reporters.

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In 1974, while the World Trade Center towers were still being built, tightrope walker Philippe Petit crossed between them, after training for years. He didn't have official permission -- he and his crew sneaked in at night and rigged the cable, and Petit performed the walk later that morning.

Wallenda's 22-minute walk in Arizona was monitored by people around the world on television and internet livestreams.

They watched as the winds tested the Florida daredevil, and listened as he called on God to calm the swaying cable and as he paid homage to his famed great-grandfather. The stunt was the leading trending topic on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

"It was unbelievable," he told reporters later. "It was everything I wanted it to be. It was extremely emotional. I got to the other end and started crying." 

During his walk, Wallenda paused and crouched twice as winds whipped around him and the rope swayed. Gusts had been expected to be around 30 mph. He said they sent dust flying into his eyes.

"It was strenuous the whole way across. It was a battle. The winds were strong, they were gusty," he told reporters. "But there was never a point where I thought, 'oh my gosh, I'm going to fall.'"

Wallenda stepped slowly and steady throughout, murmuring prayers almost constantly along the way. He jogged and hopped the last few steps.

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"Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God," he said about 13 minutes into the walk.

The Discovery Channel broadcast the event live. He wore a microphone and two cameras, one that looked down on the river bed and one that faced straight ahead.

The 34-year-old Sarasota, Fla., resident is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family — a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats.

--Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this story 

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