New York City is a mosaic of stories. And one of the most heartrending yet heartwarming can be seen in action on MacDonough Street, between Lewis and Stuyvesant Avenue in historic Stuyvesant.
It began early Wednesday morning, January 20, when Mrs. Doreen Prince, owner of 331 MacDonough, awoke and could not go back to sleep.
She got up to get a glass of water, and when she returned to bed, she smelled gas. She went back to the kitchen and then decided to check the boiler. As she opened the door to the basement, the gas odor was powerful.
She looked down the stairs, and saw the wall her building shared with 329 was now mostly a mountain of rubble and brick. She could see into neighbor Robert Providence’s house through the gaping hole. Even at that point it did not hit her how dangerous the situation was. Stunned, she could only think of alerting her tenants and Mr. Providence next door. But what was to develop into a nightmare unfolded very quickly. Within hours, it was determined that the two buildings were in eminent danger of collapsing under 100 tons of weight, that Mrs. Prince and her tenants, who left the building only with the clothes on their backs and their keys to the house, could not return. Ever. The building would be demolished. There were rumors the adjacent buildings sandwiching 331 and 329 might also be razed.
And the story had only just begun.
The buildings were slated to go down on Thursday in compliance with Buildings Department regulations concerning public safety. And the tenants were restricted from entering the building to retrieve their belongings.
On Thursday, Mr. Providence secured a stay so the buildings would not be torn down. On Friday another stay was granted until Monday. On Monday, a stay until yesterday, January 27 when Justice Bert Bunyan ruled that property owners’ structural engineers could have until Tuesday, February 2 to come up with a viable plan to save the structures.
It’s a story of people working together to find solutions; it is a story of compassion; it is a story where there are no enemies; it is a story about being on the brink; it is a story about “stuff;” keeping legacies alive, heritage intact and the quest to build new foundations; and more than bricks and mortar, it is ultimately the story, said 331 renter, Omalara Reginald Rose Deas, of grace under pressure. “And people.”
Two of those people were Lieselle Pascal, Mr. Rose’s neighbor, and Mr. Tim Lynch, a buildings forensic expert. Mr. Lynch personally brought the tenants’ and Mrs. Prince belongings out of the building. The very first items came from Miss Pascal’s apartment.
The cardboard box Lynch thought Miss Pascal requested contained the bible her grandmother had given her 10 years ago.
Keedra Gibba of the December 12 Movement was seated comfortably in Bread Stuy Caf‚ at about 1pm, Friday (22), when 327 McDonough Street condo owner Suzette Hunte, entered and implored diners to come out to the hearing that was taking place in an hour. Gibbs, without hesitation, responded to Miss Hunte’s “call to action.”
And then there are Krystal Coddett, Crystal Bobb-Semple, Eddie and Bea Atwell, Daniel and Jordana Rosen, Michael Charles, Doris Pinn, Dan Durett, Councilwoman Tish James, Kenny Kweku, Frantz, and Alan Greaves, Mrs. Prince’s son and stalwart protector — all playing a part in the drama.
The Department of Buildings told Our Time Press, “The stay on demolition has been extended to Tuesday, February 2. The buildings are being closely monitored, and there are no signs of movement at this time. The property owner will continue to submit monitoring reports to the Department. Meanwhile, the property owner (Robert Providence) must submit plans to the Department that show how the buildings can be stabilized.” The results of the Tuesday hearing will be reported – and some of the individuals who brought the MacDonough Street story to this point will be introduced — next week in Our Time Press.