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The lights still may have nostalgic value to some who watched them light up New York for every special occasion from Christmas to the Fourth of July.

They were part of “the grande dame of the New York skyline, now state-of-the-art, but still stately,” says Mr. Malkin, adding that the light show was “a gift we gave to the world, these lights. We don’t get paid for this.”

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, with a spectacular view of the new World Trade Center and New York Harbor, a vacant space under reconstruction on the building’s 72nd floor was filled with the retired floodlights, sitting side by side in long lines, veterans of years of New York weather. What will be done with them is also a secret — for now.

One old light will not be discarded in favor of a 21st-century novelty: a red beacon — “half the size of a Volkswagen Beetle,” as Mr. Malkin puts it — that serves as a warning signal for aircraft constantly flying over New York City.