Thursday, September 03, 2009

Why is there a fireman with an ax outside my apartment building?

As I approached the front door of my apartment building to go out for my morning walk today I noticed a NYFD fireman standing outside our door with an ax in his hand. A bit out of the usual, even for my neighborhood. I peered out the door and saw a couple of fire trucks and police cars and saw that my street was closed to vehicular traffic. There were a couple other firemen standing nearby with big prybars in their hands. Attention was focused directly across the street from my apartment building, but I could see no evidence of any fire, not even any fire hoses or water. Mostly everybody was just standing around looking at a truck parked across the street. And it did not appear to be on fire.

Everybody seemed rather relaxed.

I saw a few other pedestrians on the sidewalk, so I ventured out. I walked down the sidewalk (eastward) a short distance to get a better angle on the truck. It was your typical large box delivery truck that is so common in NYC. From an angle I could see that it's right front wheel was a foot or two up on the curb, there was some broken glass on the sidewalk, and... one of the scaffolding supports for the sidewalk "shed" in front of that building had been pushed out of vertical by at least a foot or two and the "shed" above it was sagging down. There was no actual collapse or debris (other than the broken glass that was probably from the truck) or any apparent injuries. There were no ambulances around.

In NYC a "sidewalk shed" is bascially a temporary roof above the sidewalk in front of a building to protect pedestrians from any falling debris while workers work on the facade of a building. This temporary roof is supported by scaffolding that rests on the sidewalk. In this case workers are chiseling and grinding out old mortar between the brickwork and re-mortaring the brick. Workers are on a platform daggling from ropes suspended from the roof, so there is no additional scaffolding above the "shed" that could collapse. There is usually some amount of tools and building materials and debris resting on top of the shed, so a collapse could be a moderate danger to pedestrians, but not life-threatening to workers as with a typical scaffolding that goes higher up the facade of a building.

Just yesterday morning I walked under that exact location of the shed where the support is now damaged.

No clue as to how or why the delivery truck was up on the sidewalk. It is not uncommon for vehicles to ride up on the curb a little bit to simplify parking.

My building is at 135 E 50TH ST, just east of Lexington Avenue.

The incident is just outside the service entrance for the W hotel, but I am not sure whether that portion of the building is actually part of the hotel. It could be, but maybe not.

Sorry that I don't have any juicy pictures, but I do not have a camera or even a cellphone with a camera.

-- Jack Krupansky


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