Broken Angel Update
To recap: On October 10, there was a fire at the top of the structure. This drew attention to the building, which was in violation of a raft of New York City building codes. The elderly creator was told to vacate the property. On October 18, the police moved in and led him away in handcuffs in a situation that one person called "a Clinton Hill Waco." By the following week, the city was threatening to demolish the structure, which is not unlike the Watts Towers in Los Angeles in the sense that it is has been crafted bit by bit from odd-and-ends by its artistic creator. Meanwhile, a local architectural firm volunteered some services and there was another meeting with the city last week.
The owner's son, Chris Wood, offers up the following comments:
Broken Angel has been an active project of construction by my family beginning in 1979. Major construction was finished in 2002, and all work done thereafter has been for the purpose of maintaining the building. The fire brought the attention of the Department of Buildings (DOB), previous interactions had occurred in 1986, and 2002 with no action taken against the building. During the course of building and maintaining the structure there have been no accidents or complaints. Compared with most modern construction projects, such as the Time Warner building in NYC, this is an excellent record. It raises questions as to why large developers are allowed to continue construction when they pose a risk to the community, whereas Broken Angel, which has no history of construction problems, has been singled out as a danger.Of the subsequent walk through with the architect, Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, he writes:
On Thursday (10/26/06) an engineer from the DOB toured the structure, and the next day the DOB released a different story. A DOB spokesperson recently commented to the Daily News (10/27/06) that any demolition orders, if warranted will take approximately 3 months to begin.What the architect told the paper, of course, is that much of the structure can be saved but that it's a matter of "time, labor and money." Which, means, of course, that Broken Angel's future is as endangered as ever, even if there has been a hint of progress and a slightly bigger timeframe before the city might order in wrecking balls.
A little history is helpful here. Those familiar with the saga of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers (pictured above and to the left) might recall that Rodia's work was condemned by the City of Los Angeles and threatened with demolition too, until a coalition of actors, artists and community activitists stepped in to save them. They were later declared a national landmark. Broken Angel may not be the Watts Towers in form, exactly, but in spirit and--increasingly in story--they are closely related.
The photo at top is courtesy of onebadapple on flickr. For those that are interested, he has posted a superb Broken Angel photoset, which can be viewed by clicking this link.