New Yorkers were left spooked on Monday night by a glaring lights display by the Empire State Building intended to honour emergency workers amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The iconic Manhattan skyscraper announced that from 9 pm their new lights display, a red and white emergency siren, would replace its signature white illumination to commemorate the heroic frontliners and continue until the end of the pandemic.

Red and white emergency siren lights to honour frontliners

"Starting tonight through the COVID-19 battle, our signature white lights will be replaced by the heartbeat of America with a white and red siren in the mast for heroic emergency workers on the front line of the fight," read a tweet from the building's official Twitter account.

Empire State Building
The Empire State Building's emergency siren display to honour the emergency workers and frontliners fighting the coronavirus. Twitter / Empire State Building

The new lights went live at the assigned time to the beat of New York City's theme song, "Empire State of Mind" by Alicia Keys, as the red and white lights started spinning around at the top of the structure, mimicking an emergency siren.

Makes New Yorkers uncomfortable

Although the lights were intended to reflect solidarity and laud the efforts of emergency and healthcare workers fighting against the deadly virus, for some, the siren led to anxiety and left them unsettled as it spun around in the midst of low clouds. "The @EmpireStateBldg reminding us that the city is in the middle of an emergency," tweeted a user named Rita King, accompanied by a video of the lights display depicting an eerie scene.

She later wrote that while she fully supports the idea behind the lights display, she "recommends that the siren be replaced by the iconic pulsing heartbeat effect to reassure our heroic healthcare workers that their efforts will succeed, and soothe nervous New Yorkers now sheltering in place."

While some New Yorkers say the lights "terrify" them and appear to "signal the end of the world," others have even gone as far as comparing it to the dreaded Eye of Sauron. "Seriously. That siren light is traumatic as hell. You can honour the frontline emergency workers without upping everyone's stress levels with a hyperactive Eye of Sauron," commented a user named Genie Gratto.

Others have complained that the red flashes induce anxiety in people who are trying to stay indoors, especially when they're trying to remain calm. "I know it pays respect and appreciation to our Emergency Medical Heroes, but as a regular New Yorker, it has struck fear and intense anxiety through my entire body," another user chimed in. "This is the view from my balcony. Sending a prayer to those heroes."