‘Grand’ entrance – Famed WTC daredevil Philippe Petit on track for station feat

By Jennifer Fermino New York Post

This will be more tense than rush hour on a crowded 6 train.

A famous French aerialist is preparing to reprise his death-defying tightrope walk 80 feet above Grand Central Terminal’s marble floor in honor of the station’s 100-year anniversary next year.

It was 25 years ago when Philippe Petit first tiptoed above thousands of hushed commuters during a 12-minute lull between trains.

Now, the still-limber 62-year-old is ready to complete the feat one more time.

“It’s a dream for me to put my high wire there again,” said Petit.

And that dream is on track to become reality.

The head of the centennial committee said in late March that he hoped Petit could perform his sky-high act again.

“If anybody knows where he is and [if he] is still doing it, we’d love to have him back,” Peter Stangl, a former MTA chairman, said when announcing the festivities for the transit hub’s 100th birthday — which is on the stroke of midnight on Feb. 1, 2013.

“I personally would like to see him perform again,” he said.

Thankfully Petit wasn’t too hard to find.

The Post found the French daredevil — most famous for walking between the Twin Towers on a thin wire in 1974, a feat documented in the film Man on Wire — at his upstate home, where he still practices walking a tightrope for three hours a day.

The surprise offer had him flexing his toes in anticipation.

“It’s a space that calls for a high wire,” he said of Grand Central.

Unlike some of his most famous performances — like those at the World Trade Center, Sydney Harbor Bridge and Notre Dame — his Grand Central stunt was done with approval from officials.

But that didn’t make setting up a secure tightrope at one of the busiest places on Earth any easier.

One major obstacle was figuring out where to secure the wires, since drilling a spot in the landmarked marble wasn’t possible.

Petit solved the problem by using extra large sandbags to hold down the anchors.

For safety reasons, no one was allowed beneath the high wire, which was strung out 150 feet from the north and south windows.

Organizers eventually found a 12-minute window around 8:30pm in which no trains arrived at the station — otherwise, the vibrations could have made him lose his balance.
“One minute too much, it was a disaster,” said Petit.

The terminal was silent at the start of the show, with spectators crammed elbow to elbow.

Petit said he remembers “the tight-packed audience, their reaction, the acoustics, the echo and the magnificent canvas above me.”

When he finished, the audience let out a collective sigh of relief and burst into applause.

“I remember vividly as if it was yesterday,” Petit said.

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