NEW YORK — The blustery cold of a February morning didn’t stop nearly 2,000 spectators, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, from attending the topping out ceremony at AOL Time Warner Center.

The mood was upbeat as bundled New Yorkers and out-of-towners celebrated the structural completion of the 2.1 million sq. ft. mixed-use development at Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan.

"Seventy-one years ago, the topping out ceremony on the Empire State building was held," Bloomberg said in his address. The mayor envisions the AOL Time Warner Center as a new landmark in the New York skyline.

The building will house the headquarters of media company AOL Time Warner, along with The Palladium specialty retail complex, the Jazz at Lincoln Center and office space for The Related Companies and Apollo Real Estate Advisors. The steel frame podium also provides the base for One Central Park condominiums and the Mandarin Oriental, a New York hotel that will rise above in two concrete structures.

The topping out ceremony was held on the sixth floor, the future site of the Jazz at Lincoln Center, which offers a spectacular view of Central Park and the New York skyline. A huge American flag, which engulfed the right side of the building, lent a patriotic note to the celebration, as Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, led Jazz musicians in "The Star-Spangled Banner." At the conclusion of the ceremony, the last piece of steel decorated in red, white and blue and lettered with "God Bless America" was hoisted into place.

"The art of jazz is the graceful art of negotiation. A project of this magnitude requires much give and take," Marsalis says. "Jazz at Lincoln Center would like to thank the dedicated construction workers for their concern and impeccable craftsmanship in building this new jewel in the Manhattan skyline. We are just two seasons away from inhabiting this facility, where we will trumpet the power of the arts to transform, heal and entertain."

For AOL Time Warner, the building reaffirms the company’s commitment to the city that it calls home. "Today is an important milestone in the development of AOL Time Warner Center," says Richard Parsons, CEO-designate of AOL Time Warner. "Our company has been headquartered in New York since the founding of Time magazine in 1923, and we could not be more proud to reaffirm our commitment to this great city with the construction of our beautiful new home."

The project is set for completion in fall 2003.