I just walked over there again today. It’s a surreal scene to be sure. St. Mark’s Place and East 7th both remain closed to traffic (though you can go down St. Mark’s by foot). At the mouth of Third Avenue, you can only stand around the corner by Gem Spa, but that’s about it. Those looking to get their fill of disaster porn might be disappointed.
I suppose you cannot blame folks for being curious to come check it out, however ghoulish in some cases (see below). As the the dust continues to settle — literally and figuratively — it’s hard not to worry about how this event is going to further transform this community. Surrounding local businesses are already starting to feel the pain, to say nothing of those caught immediately in the crossfire. It’s unimaginable how those directly affected by this must be coping.
And what will become of the site of the disaster itself? How will justice be meted out to the homeowners and businesses from those four buildings? Will they be compensated? What will come next? Some new, antiseptic condo tower? Maybe a public plaza? Somehow, I strenuously doubt the latter.
If you’re looking for more pictures of the devastation, I’m sure there is no shortage of them already floating around social media, but I’ve been struck by two more pictures pertaining to this whole story (much like the 1981 shot I put up on Thursday). Both are heartbreaking, albeit for entirely different reasons.
My blogging comrade Jeremiah Moss posted the shot below on his Facebook page on Friday, and it really put the hook in me. Taken by James and Karla Murray, the couple behind the amazing “Store Front” photographs, here’s a lovely shot of the affected stretch of Second Avenue between East 7th and St. Mark’s Place. Click on it to enlarge.
Here’s how they captioned it.
The collapse now spans to corner. Small stores affected by yesterday's gas explosion/fire on Second Avenue near East 7th Street in the East Village. Three buildings have now collapsed as a result of the fire. Our hearts go out the injured and to everyone who lost their home or business. Panoramic photo from 2001 appears in our book "Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York.”
I love that this photo shows both Loves Saves the Day and the original incarnation of Toy Tokyo,…two of my favorite spots on a strip that also included, back in the day, two amazing record stores, Wowsville and Freebeing (both long gone, of course).
But, again, beyond favorite shops and restaurants, it’s prudent to remember that while this neighborhood has gone through its hills and valleys as a destination for all stripes of demographics (from bohemians, poets and punks through frat boys, yupsters and nightlife revelers), it is first and foremost a place many people call HOME, regardless of its reputation. For some of us, it’s now a sad to place to visit. For others, it’s the end of their world.
This point is precisely why this other photograph that’s been making the rounds on social media has left me so flabbergasted. Have a look.
Yes, here’s a gaggle of women posing for a “selfie” just up the road from the collapse site (first spied on the Facebook page of another fellow blogger, EV Grieve, who found it on Twitter). My first reaction was simply, “Why the FUCK are they smiling?” Did it not occur to a single one of those seven whistleheads that what they were doing was slavishly inappropriate and in spectacularly bad fucking taste? Is a group “Tragedy Selfie” really the best way to document this experience?
It just makes me vibrate with incredulous rage. I'd love to see a statement from one of them at one point, but I'm not holding my breath.
We're better than this, aren't we?