Part of architect Joseph Pell Lombardi's renovation of two Soho buildings is to remove the external fire escapes and introduce other fire-abating measures into the building, such as sprinklers. Why? "It's twofold: It's aesthetics, in that it looks nicer both outside and in, but it's also safer." Residents of the cast-iron Greene Street buildings were less than thrilled, but Lombardi's designs passed muster with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Now an official Fire Department spokesperson has come out and told the Post that "those fire escapes are going the way of the dinosaur." (Internal fire-exit stairs are seen as a better safety move.)
While rumors of their death may be greatly exaggerated, looking back at photos of such an iconic part of the city does bring on the nostalgia.
In 2009, a Times op-ed described the manifold usages of the fire escape rather eloquently.
Officially, of course, the urban fire escape is primarily an emergency exit, but in New York, this prosaic adornment of countless five- and six-story apartment houses has assumed myriad other functions: faux backyards, platforms for criminal getaways, oases for marginalized smokers and makeshift bedrooms popular during an age before air-conditioning. The piece urges "New Yorkers to give these old cultural symbols a second look." Well, Mr. FDNY spokesman, maybe you could stand to do the same.
· Safety concerns could make NYC's fire escapes a thing of the past [NYP]
· Soho Residents Not Thrilled About Losing Fire Escapes [Curbed]
· Soho Buildings To Lose Fire Escapes, Despite Safety Concerns [Curbed]
· Take A Closer Look At NYC's Beautiful, Ubiquitous Fire Escapes [Curbed]