This past Friday when an enormous crane collapsed on the Upper East Side the city was thrown into high construction to alert. It is almost impossible to live in Manhattan and not pass under scaffolding, walk by several cranes, and hear the sounds of a jackhammer breaking ground on your morning walk to school. There are two monumental building projects going on within one block of my daughters’ elementary school- Both of which entail extraordinary cranes,intricate cement funneling systems which reach at least 10 stories high, and tons of metal and electrical supplies being hauled by a cable into the air. Hopscotching through the streets in order to avoid these buildings is like entering an obstacle course with no clear path.
But, this current crane collapse, coming only months after another deadly collapse, shows how important it is to keep our kids and ourselves far away from these sites. Unfortunately, like all things in New York, it is incredibly easy to become blase after encountering one building site after another. Why not just walk through the temporary sidewalk opening adjacent to the huge trucks? After all, crossing the street is out of your way. Why not walk underneath the scaffolding like everyone else even though 20 tons of steel are being lifted overhead? Well, I offer two of my own experiences of being Chicken Little in a city where the sky can fall in an instant.
Several years ago as I walking home from the grocery store during a huge rainstorm I missed the light and got stuck at the corner. I was basically cursing my terrible luck and getting soaked to the bone until finally the traffic cleared and I could dash across the street and under the scaffolding of the building on the opposite corner. As I approached and ducked underneath an entire section of the scaffolding immediately in front of me came crashing down. Had I made the light I would’ve been right underneath it. Turns out someone had left cardboard and other materials on the top of the scaffolding which had become laden down with the rain and heavy enough to cause the metal sheeting to give.
My second brush with falling disaster came when my daughters were only 4 months old. My husband and I were walking down a lovely tree lined block on the Upper West Side to see the apartment we had just made an offer on. As we strolled down the picturesque brownstone street a women screamed, “f*****ck!” And directly behind us, where we were standing just 5 second before, an air-conditioner came hurtling to the ground and smashed into pieces on the sidewalk. We looked at each other in horror and a strange sense of hyper awareness, freaked out and incredulous but also relieved. “What if?” is all that ran through my mind at that point. That and the image of my 4 month old twins suddenly orphaned by the most random of circumstances. Like some weird beginning to an episode of Six Feet Under.
So, I guess it doesn’t surprised my when things like huge crane accidents happen, or entire facades of buildings suddenly collapse. It is an unfortunate side effect of living in a city where taller is the norm and people live in the sky. We can hope, and expect, that our mayor and the people in charge are doing all they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But, since I have little faith in those powers that be, and more faith in the randomness of this city, I make sure to look up every now and then, and avoid the areas where I can’t see the real sky through the beams. I’d rather be Chicken Little than a Dead Duck.
This is an original post to New York City Moms Blog.