Tourists on the skyscraper's 86th-floor observation deck watched in shock on Thursday afternoon as officials fought to stop Jeb Ray Corliss IV from carrying out his stunt.
Authorities said Corliss, 30, the host of the US Discovery Channel's Stunt Junkies show, had got past security at the tower's entrance by wearing a foam fat suit concealing his parachute. The slim, bald man's disguise also included a rubber mask with tufts of greyish hair.
Once on the 86th floor, he allegedly went into the toilets and took off the fat suit to reveal a parachute, jumping gear and a helmet with a video camera attached, before attempting to jump.
Police said Corliss climbed over a security fence on the side of the tower, but building staff had been tipped off and a guard grabbed his leg before he could leap. The TV host, from Malibu, California, was then handcuffed to the railing as he protested loudly. A piece of the fence had to be removed to take him into custody.
A British tourist, Dennis Hook, 68, told the New York Post he initially thought the spectacle was a joke. He said: "There was also someone in a King Kong suit walking around, so it looked like a show. It was unbelievable."
Timothy Donahue, a member of staff, said: "He was fighting with us to get off. He wanted to jump off in the worst way." He added: "It's New York City. It's rush hour. It's not the time to be jumping off buildings."
Police Inspector James McCarthy said that Corliss told authorities he was trying to pull off a stunt and had done similar things in the past. Corliss is being charged with assault, reckless endangerment and other offences.
Stunt Junkies is dedicated to adventures in extreme sports such as skydiving.