I went up to the roof for the same reason I always do, to make sense of something that I’ve written, or that somebody else has.
At 4:23 I felt a thud of the kind that happens when Michael Bay is directing, the bathroom actually moved from side to side, so I looked at my watch, and thought about the backhoe digging four doors down behind blue plywood, I had passed by there earlier on my way to the bank on 125th, I figured the operator had missed the dumpster, dropped something heavy onto the street, either that or it was an earthquake, unlikely in these parts.
Around 4:50 I went up to the roof to ponder my response to—what else?—a review of Against Thrift, do you think I do anything that might qualify as important, don’t be silly. A distraught woman was taking pictures off the south end and talking excitedly on her cell phone, she actually had binoculars slung over her shoulders and would periodically aim them at something below. I paid no attention because I wanted to be alone with my work.
But with the three helicopters hovering directly overhead, and the dozens of fire trucks announcing their convergence on my neighborhood, well, eventually, I walked over to the rail and followed the woman’s gaze. 110 West 123rd Street, a four-story unoccupied brownstone, had collapsed. It was all rubble, just bricks and lath, the only thing intact was the roof, which had slid west in descending, destroying the community garden, and already 30 firemen were cutting and prying it open, to see if anybody could be alive under this improbable canopy.
123rd Street was blocked off by six ladder trucks and three police vehicles, Lenox too was closed to traffic, and by 5:30 the roof was teeming with photographers. When I left at 5:55, there were still well over a hundred firemen at the site, although the saws were fewer and the digging through the bricks had become a casual sport rather than a feverish quest.
I’m just back from another viewing, as it were, of the dead building, and I’m happy to report as of 7:20 that the site is closed off because the firemen discovered no bodies beneath the rubble. The moral of this story is, pay attention. The sky is not falling, but these beautiful, substantial old buildings are, right before your very eyes.
Here’s a link with a photo.