Survey Party - When I had been
with the PA’s Contracts Division-Law Department a little over four
years, I was given the assignment of drafting/reviewing the main
contracts for the Bus Terminal Modernization of the mid-Seventies. Among
these was the agreement for the foundations for the North Wing, awarded
to the DeMatteis organization. After a few months Engineering received
reports from the church across 42nd Street and the porn/strip theater
close to the northwest 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue corner that
blasting by the contractor had caused serious cracks in the buildings.
For some unknown reason, my Division Chief and I were asked to meet our
construction engineers at the porn theater to “inspect” the claimed
damage. We were told that the site had been surveyed before construction
started but nevertheless the lawyers needed to do an “inspection”.
So, on a warm and humid late spring
morning dressed in a suit and tie and wearing leather-soled loafers, I
arrived and was escorted to a low roof which faced 42nd Street. Above
loomed a building of several stories with a brick outer wall and a
ladder bolted to the brick. The ladder did not have what I recognized as
steps, instead it had rounded rungs. It was about 3 feet wide. Visible
above were cracks which appeared to have been previously
patched/caulked/plastered/grouted. The cracks were about 25 feet above
the roof. I was instructed to climb the ladder and “inspect”.
Law school, while offering a course on
negligence, had no course on ladder climbing. My two years in the Peace
Corps in Peru had prepared me for harrowing bus rides in the Andes,
fighting off red ants in the jungle, and various types of amoebic
dysentery, but not for this ladder climbing. My prior experience in
ladder climbing was a five-foot climb from the tracks at the High Street
subway station during the 1965 power blackout where a burly NYC fireman
was there to assist. Further I had no experience with blasting cracks. I
fearfully climbed the 25 feet, reported that the cracks looked the same
close up as they had from the roof, and backed down the ladder about
five times more slowly than I had inched upwards.
Later we were told that the PA had
repaired the cracks in the church although, it believed that they were
pre-existing. I think the porn theater claims were denied. Sometime
during the subway ride back to WTC I stopped shaking. But for years
whenever my family and I walked from the Bus Terminal to Restaurant Row
I focused on Shake Shack and did not gaze upwards.