Let's begin this post by saying there's no reason to worry, everybody is fine. (We've always wanted to write that — because let's be honest, when we start conversations with our mom that way she goes bananas.) See, there was a small explosion in Times Square early this morning, but nobody was hurt. Apparently somebody tossed an explosive device at a U.S. military recruiting center just before 4 a.m. today. The office's window was smashed, and a door was damaged. Traffic was interrupted for a while, but now it appears to be back to normal. The Department of Homeland Security says it's investigating whether it was terrorism-related, but according to NY1, there wasn't a sense of panic in the area this morning. Explained droll host Pat Kiernan: "It seemed people were annoyed by the nuisance as much as anything."
Small explosion hits New York's Times Square [Reuters]
Update: Mayor Bloomberg just held a press conference about this. It turns out that it was a bomb in an ammunition box. Bloomberg called the attack on the recruitment office an insult to our troops and added that "New York City is back and open for business." NYPD chief Ray Kelly said the device was not "particularly sophisticated" and explained that there is one witness who saw a suspicious hooded man on a bicycle passing the recruiting station just before the explosion.
• Things keep getting worse at the Deutsche Bank building: Yesterday a worker for the sinister John Galt Corporation "lost control" of a forklift on the 23rd floor, from which it tumbled 200 feet to the ground, crashing through the roof of a shed and sending two more firefighters to the hospital. [NYT]
If it feels like the city is falling apart around you, it may not just be your paranoia talking. Early yesterday afternoon a section of midtown sidewalk collapsed under two construction workers jackhammering it, sending them on a ten-foot fall into the hole underneath and leaving both at Bellevue Hospital in stable condition. With exploding steam pipes and "structurally deficient" bridges, what else can go wrong? Christopher Bonanos considered that question in this week's New York. Our advice: Be ready for blackout, and watch out for falling bricks.
The Old Town [NYM]
Two Hurt in Sidewalk Collapse [Newsday]
• Juror Bloomberg is back at his day job — and he's brokered a deal with Albany that will require more developers in more neighborhoods to include low-income housing in their projects. Spitzer's likely to sign. [NYT]
• The newest chapter in the fast-developing Spitzer scandal: The State Ethics Commission, which definitely has subpoena power, has joined the State Senate in requesting the documents from the Bruno investigation. Not looking good. [amNY]
• Thirty or so Bancrofts are converging on a Boston Hilton today to discuss whether they'd like some more money. (Actually, spread across the clan, the estimated $500 million in profit a Dow Jones sale would bring doesn't sound like a staggering amount.) [NYT]
• Councilman and former Black Panther Charles Barron (he of the "Sonny Carson" avenue-renaming idea Bloomberg called "the worst ever") announced he's running to replace Marty Markowitz as the Brooklyn beep. Should be a lively campaign, as they say. [NYP]
• In rapper-arrest news, Lil Wayne and Ja Rule have been picked up on separate (!) gun-possession charges in busts an hour apart. [WNBC]
• Midtown businesses that lost money to last week's steam-pipe blast will not see a red cent from Con Ed — not even restaurants that lost their supplies to spoilage when the power was cut. Some are threatening to sue. [NYDN]
• And the Yankees beat the Devil Rays 21-4 last night, which both tabs agree puts the team in the "21 Club." Yuk yuk yuk. [NYDN, NYP]
Human beings build mental models for things. You don't really think about your commute into work; you just do it, the same as you do every day. This is why every now and then, when you walk to that same subway station to go someplace else, you get on that usual morning-commute train even though you mean to go the other way. Well, we have a model for party reporting, and last night we were set to cover the after-party for Glenn Close's new FX drama, Damages, which we were told was at Cipriani's. We assumed that meant Cipriani 42nd Street, so we left the office at the end of the day on autopilot. We saw some police barricades; we ignored them. We turned onto 42nd Street. There were a lot of bright lights. The street was blocked off. Wow, we thought, big premiere.
If you've always wondered what it might look like if the mild-mannered street in front of you were suddenly to explode, and if you weren't lucky enough to be near Grand Central the other day, we've got some good news. The Fire Department located a security camera on Lexington Avenue that caught the steam-pipe explosion. The main problem with security cameras, of course, is bad composition — so just be warned to keep your eye on the top of the frame. Also, the Fire Department has confirmed that the time stamp on the tape is wrong. So don't get hung up on that.
Moments Before the Steam Pipe Explosion [YouTube]
Video Shows Steam Pipe Explosion [City Room/NYT]
• Families of 9/11 victims are upset — are the families of 9/11 victims ever not upset? — because the city plans to commemorate the attacks' sixth anniversary in the small Zuccotti park. Instead of, you know, in the middle of a giant construction site. [amNY]
“There is no reason to believe this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure,” Mayor Mike insisted last night, attempting to calm any what-have- the-terrorists-done-now fears. Thing is: It's hard to feel comfortable when cops are swarming the explosion site dressed like something out of Star Trek. With this afternoon's announcement that no asbestos was found in the air, perhaps the police are losing the gas masks?
Last night's explosion was an impressive display in itself. But equally impressive was the way it tied up seemingly the entire East Side, with trains not running and people everywhere gawking. This is our favorite picture of the gawkers — the crowd massed in front of the iconic Public Library building, all stopped and looking in the same direction. If this were a still from some fifties-era cheesy sci-fi film, that's exactly what everyone would look like as they watched the flying saucers land.
Earlier:Grand Central Explosion Kills One, Wounds 30, Inconveniences Thousands
So it was a steam pipe that exploded last night near Grand Central, and the fallout from it includes one death (from a heart attack), more than 30 injuries (two critical), and, in the words of the Times, an "unnerved" Manhattan. "There is no reason to believe this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure," said Mayor Bloomberg. This is a surprisingly wan consolation: With infrastructure that allows for the occasional midtown geyser strong enough to rip pavement, flip a truck, and half-swallow a car, who needs terrorists? Witnesses described the epicenter, on 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, as looking strangely primordial, with flames flickering inside the rupture and boiling brown muck bubbling around its edges. There's a YouTube video already, of course, and the inevitable idiotic comments. Bush did it! LOL!
Yes, there was indeed an explosion near Grand Central Terminal. No, it was not at Grand Central. Yes, there's a lot of smoke. A transformer exploded on East 41st Street between Third and Lexington Avenues; it caused a four-alarm fire and injured one person. Police have closed that block and evacuated some buildings. The subways are running, including the Lex lines, though they're currently skipping Grand Central, which must be a real pain for those who were trying to catch the 6:45 to Larchmont. We're about to call it a day, but we have no doubt Sewell Chan will keep you abreast of the latest news all night long.
Buildings Evacuated After Midtown Explosion [City Room/NYT]
Update: The source of the explosion was a steam pipe, and as of 8:15 p.m. there is no service on the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines between 125th Street and Bowling Green, service on the 42nd Street shuttle has been suspended, and 7 trains bypass Grand Central.MTA Service Alert [MTA.info]