East Harlem Building Collapse - the United States of Rubble
They’re still clearing away the debris along Park Avenue in Harlem. A natural gas explosion already has taken six lives officially, and there likely will be more victims to be found. People said they saw pianos flying through the air. And then, of course, there’s this:
Less than two weeks before two East Harlem buildings exploded leaving at least six dead, Consolidated Edison workers checked the 127-year-old gas main in front of the site and found no apparent leaks, according to a ConEd spokesman.
A 127-year old pipe.
This might have been a bridge in Indiana, or a levee in Mississippi, or a potholed highway on the Kansas plains. Instead, it was a cast-iron pipe that was laid down in the first Cleveland administration. The country is falling apart. Everybody knows it. (Yesterday, on my usual morning walk along the Charles, I crossed a footbridge over the river and stepped over what appeared to be a fault line in the middle of the span. You could see the geese swimming by below. And the Commonwealth — God save it! — is one of the states that takes this sort of seriously.) In 1984, when he ran for president, Gary Hart, American Cassandra that he is, warned the country about its crumbling infrastructure. He pounded the theme so relentlessly that people mocked him for it. But he was right, and the problem is worse now than it was.
The country needs some combination of the WPA and the space program to put itself back together again. Real unemployment is stubbornly in the low double digits. Meanwhile, bridges fall into rivers, and sinkholes devour houses, and 127-year old gas pipes explode and kill people. And yet we’re too lazy, or too goddamn cheap, to tax ourselves to rebuild what everybody with eyes knows needs to be rebuilt. In 2011, the president proposed a $60 billion infrastructure bill as part of a hobs package. It died in the Senate. He beat the drum for an “infrastructure bank.” The Republicans in the House voted 50 times to repeal his health-care law. This is what John Boehner, that fop, said about the idea.
Republicans responded by saying they also wanted to upgrade American roads, bridges and other infrastructure, but only if it could be paid for. Speaker John A. Boehner’s office distributed comments he made last month after Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address. “It’s easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all the things you want to give away,” Mr. Boehner said. “But at some point, somebody has to pay the bill.”
Go to Harlem today, Mr. Speaker. The bill is being paid in blood.