Since yesterday’s explosion on Second Avenue at Seventh Street in the East Village, I’ve been thinking about this photograph.
I took it about a month ago while sitting at a window table in San Marzano restaurant, looking up Second, during one of our February snow storms.
The building on the left, the former home of the quintessential East Village vintage clothing and novelty shop Love Saves The Day, is one of the buildings that collapsed. The woman with the white umbrella is passing in front of the restaurant that was the source of the explosion.
I’ve also been thinking about the staff at Pomme Frites, Sushi Park, Paul’s Burger, San Marzano and the other shops along this avenue. And especially about the residents who lost their homes. We’re anxious to check on acquaintances who work at the restaurants.
This is about five or six blocks away from our home. Bob and I walked over last night but couldn’t get within two blocks of the site, since the fire department was still dousing the one building left standing as of the evening news.
I was at work in Midtown, but Bob was at home when it all happened. He didn’t hear the blast, but he did see the smoke come pouring westward down our street, and then the fire trucks rushing eastward up the street toward the source.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all of this since yesterday. This part of the East Village has kind of lost its way over the past two decades, as mainstays like Love Saves The Day, the Kiev and the community that made it all feel like home have been pushed out by greedy landlords and franchise blandness—a dull playground for tourists and the entitled.
If all goes as it has been going over the past twenty years in the City, the vacant lot left behind once the rubble is cleared will probably sit boarded up for way too long—a couple years easily—leaving that part of the block shady and uninviting to visitors deciding which direction to stroll when they reach the end of Saint Marks Place. And then after most people have long forgotten the classic East Village tenement buildings that stood there, some so-called “luxury high rise” with minimal amenities, and even less care from its managing agency, will go up in their place.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this picture.
April 2, 2014 Update: Since this post was published last week, two bodies were found in the rubble of the explosion. First and foremost, my heart goes out to the families of the two men who died in this catastrophe. They have lost far more than landmarks or neighborhood memories, and deserve our quiet respect and condolences.