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Revenge of the Machines on East 4th

What the heck is going on along East 4th Street between Lafayette and Bowery? A Curbed reader emails, "On my walk home across 4th Street, I saw some crazy construction equipment, the likes of which I've never seen, set up on the empty lot between the old Merchant's House and the beautiful orphaned shell of a building you lamented a few weeks ago. If they start pile-driving on that lot, I fear that old remnant of 19th-century streetscape will crumble and fall."

Jen Bekman, she of the eponymous Nolita art gallery?and, as of this morning, the force behind MediaBistro's groovy new design blog Unbeige, sends along the above snapshot of the chaos. Anyone know what's going on here? (After the jump: more ominous photographs!)