It’s Day Four of Blogtober. I know that Speaker7, Sips of Jen and Tonic, and I are phoning it in on our sites rather than going through the NaNoWriMo exercises that others may be trying, but is anyone else out there looking to do this as well? We can’t be the only three people in North America crazy enough to do this. And how hard is it really? It’s not like you’re being asked to pay $300 to avoid going to Gettysburg, you know…
Speaking of payouts and money (and who doesn’t from time to time), there was one indelible image out of Sandy’s rampage that caught my eye early and stayed with me for much of the week: There was a construction crane that was loosened hundreds of feet above 57th Street, dangling over the streets, right near Carnegie Hall:
(Image compiled with assist from Google)
To give you some sense of how perilous this crane was, I took a few shots over the last few days down in the neighborhood:
This was the first indelible image that came out of the disaster, occurring hours before the flooding started and the lights went out. It’s a raw visceral image that just makes your heart stop, watching the crane hang over the street, threatening to take out Carnegie Hall if the winds got under it just right.
Not to mention the impact (no pun intended, really) if that sucker just went into the street; close to a ton of steel from that great a height slicing into the middle of a major cross-island street, taking out a main way across town, and all of the support systems cities need to thrive, like gas and electric. A block or two over and subway service might also have been stabbed in the heart.
The only good to come out of the crane incident is a chance to update an old joke:
Guy on street: “Excuse me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
Cop: “Hey, not until we give an all clear; stay behind the line, buddy!”
(Though truth be told, the female officer assigned to crowd control from a downtown precinct I spoke to during one of these shoots would probably have been a lot nicer had that subject come up…)
What struck me as I watched this were not so much the immediate threats to the neighborhood, but how this came to be, for the project in question made the news much earlier for being a very high priced real estate transaction.
The new building, One57, is an exclusive luxury development that promises its occupants exquisite services in addition to convenience to midtown and, of course, great views. The fact that the penthouse went to a buyer for $90 million shows what kind of upmarket buyers they were going for; the fact that over 50% of its units were sold by May indicates that there’s a lot more of them than we ever imagined.
Some of whom are claiming the economy is in bad shape in ads tied to the election; not so bad that they can’t afford a place at One57, it looks like, but…
The obvious simile one turns to is the tale of the Sword of Damocles. People sort of remember the story, about a guy who was surrounded by riches on the couch but sat under a sword held up by a thin hair, ready to stab him at any instant, much like the residents of West 57th Street would have been threatened had they been allowed to stay in their apartments this week and not forced to evac.
But the thing of it is, Damocles was a hanger-on of Dionysius II of Syracuse (no not that one) who got to the couch by invitation of his host, who tried to make a point about how being rich ain’t all fun and games. Dionysius certainly had a much better sense of obligation to his position than most of the tenants of One57. One could argue that they ended up placing a sword over everyone that none of them feel the need to think about because their set up is less what one sees among Greek rulers of the 5thCentury BC and more like the French aristocracy of the 1740s.
One forgets that Carnegie Hall came into existence because steel magnate Andrew Carnegie wanted to give something back after earning so much. Somehow, I don’t see any of the folks calling One57 their home going out and doing the same thing at any point in their lives…
Maybe I’m wrong; hell, I’d love to be proven wrong. I’d love to hear that the owners of the 50% presold, including the proud owner of the $90 million penthouse, were getting together and contributing two months’ maintenance worth to disaster relief. Rough back of the envelope estimate, that amount could probably rebuild Breezy Point, which desperately needs it, or fix damage on two houses in the Hamptons, which sure as hell don’t.
In the meantime, residents of the blocks evacuated are now allowed to come home, and the crane is being secured for removal as soon as they build a new crane to get rid of the old one. With any luck, there will be no more swords placed above anyone’s head by these folks.
Just the usual that flies out the window on to the heads beneath them, instead…