Chet Lawrence looked out over the city from his penthouse office on the fortieth floor. It seemed like it was only yesterday instead of three years ago, when his dream of this building was no more than that of a dream.
He thought of the deals he had made and “pocket money” to have to lay out in political contributions to the mayor then in power, to prevent the city government from taking any actions in the project. In everyday life in New York City, it is known as “supporting” your local politician, but when those, other than the political bosses, practiced this ritual it was known as the protection racket.
His decision did become a reality though and he remembered its conception at the birth of another more massive project. Westway project that still was far from its finished . He remembered the scramble from the lawyer session of the building industry and price he grabbed early which resulted in the present site of the building.
The original site consisted of a square block of loft buildings between Duane and Reade Street and Church Street and West Broadway. Business was moving back downtown, and he was one of the first of the pack to move north of the Wall Street and City Hall Avenue.
The first impression one received of the building was that of a large black tombstone. Its near seamless structure a fine match of black metal and black glass Even the base of the super structure was housed in matching black marble and glass so that it gave an ominous appearance/
On the street level behind the dark fascicle was an enclosed square block mall with most of the usual signs plastered on the outside of the building but the structure sported neat, three-foot-high white lettering on the wall near the base and just to the side of the entrances, which read, “The West Broadway Mall”. All the shop signs were hung over this entrance inside the mall itself.
All the shops were considered “posh”. There were a half dozen of the finest stores: a French pastry shop, a café, a French restaurant and an Italian restaurant as well as a multitude of fine specialty and gift shops. Several clothiers and boutique took the rest of the space along with, not one, but two banks located at opposite corners of the building.
Yes, this was his dream to turn this section of town into another Madison Avenue. To complete his ambition, Chet Lawrence bought out two nearby parking garages and also a second row of lofts across the street from the window he peered from. He was planning on converting these to cooperatives with boutiques and cafes on the street level.
It was a fantastic project, but its undertaking was marred only by a tragic accident during its early construction stages. In the beginning, in the period before the first steel fingers reached for the skies, and as the first foundation was being laid to form the roots of the skyscraper, three laborers working the bottom when several of the lowest floors collapsed, and three laborers were buried under tons of fresh concrete. Their whereabouts were not noticed when the afternoon shift was up. By then it was too late, and after frantic and unsuccessful rescue efforts were made the next day, all efforts were finally dropped to recover the bodies. Plans were made to erect a plaque for the lost men, but it still was not completed by the time the building was finished and finally overlooked at the structure’s opening.
It haunted Chet a little and he made a mental note to complete that promise to the men’s widows as soon as the cooperatives were finished across the street. For now, though, he would have to shift his attention back to business. He had a mess of paperwork to sign off and tomorrow they would have to meet with the officers of the large investment company who wished to lease ten entire floors of his building.
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