They didn't get mad, they got even by rallying hundreds of protestors outside the building Thursday evening.
"It's a big shame," protestor Stella Gryzyez said. "I'm very surprised that in America they can put lights on for Popeye and they don't do something for such a great woman."
However, Empire State Building leaders say rules are rules.
Although they have the tradition of lightings for religious holidays, they do not accommodate requests for religious figures, religions or religious organizations.
For the passionate, the issue became heated arguments on the streets.
While controversy brewed at the Empire State Building, many remembered the Nobel Peace Prize recipient around the city.
In Astoria, Queens, the faithful lit candles in her honor.
And at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, the Sisters from the charity house which Mother Teresa founded joined Archbishop Timothy Dolan to celebrate the nun's life.
Then Thursday night in Times Square, city leaders honored Mother Teresa by lighting buildings in blue.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn moved the focus to unity rather than division.
"It was a day of citywide service," she said. "We had hundreds of people cleaning parks, grocery shopping for the needy. We wanted the Empire State Building to join us. They didn't want to. We didn't want to focus on what people didn't want to do today, but on what people did."
Mother Teresa was born Aug. 26, 1910, and died Sept. 5, 1997, at age 87. In 2003, she was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church - a step toward possible sainthood.
The Empire State Building was lit in red, white and blue on Thursday night for women's suffrage to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.