Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Naked Building


How many stories are there in the Naked Building?

I don't know.  Probably not eight million. But I am sure there are thousands and I would like to share some of what I know.

It's a story of flood, of recovery, of loss of hope, of A Long Goodbye.  How the story will end we still don't know.

The Naked Building was built in 1942, during a time when the Triple Cities of New York were prosperous, with a booming economy.  This sturdy brick building, some 300,000 square feet,  was built by the military, and leased to General Electric.  When I moved to Westover (a neighborhood just to the west of Johnson City, NY) in the 1980's, General Electric was still operating in that sturdy brick building. But as the years passed, General Electric passed the business off to Martin-Marietta, who became Lockheed Martin.  Lockheed Martin sold that portion of their business to BAE Systems in 2000.  So for all this time, this has been a place of productivity and employment.

It was a good place to work, this industrial facility located in a residental/commercial neighborhood, and so it went until September 7, 2011.  After relentless rain due to Tropical Storm Lee BAE flooded.   What did those employees think when they left their building that night?  Did they dream they might never return?

For almost two months a recovery company and numbers of temps worked 24/7, under blazing generator-powered lights, but the building could not be put back together.  Many custom made machines lay in ruins. BAE couldn't risk another flood.  Maybe they know something about changing weather patterns....

The decision was made in November to abandon the building.  The BAE sign came off the front.  The parking lot stayed empty. A passerby walking down the public sidewalk could see into the building, see bare walls, stripped down to the metal studs, throughout the abandoned building.  It had become The Naked Building.  BAE promised to stay somewhere in the area and said they would make an announcement when they found a place to relocate to.  And then the building would be torn down.

But then an amazing thing happened at The Naked Building.  One day, a delivery man was parked near one of the entrances, wheeling in cases of soda.

Employees started coming back.  Certainly not the 1300 of before the flood-maybe more like 150 or so.  But the parking lot next to the building held more cars each day.

What was happening?  This week, I found out.

The building will be abandoned by February 28.  A skeleton crew has returned, mainly to assist with clearing out anything that can be saved.  The air quality in the building (I am told) is terrible.  It smells terrible inside. The floors are warped.  The manufacturing workers have been furloughed (i.e. are on unemployment) since the day of the flood.  I knew that administrative and some others had taken up temporary headquarters in a former IBM facility in Endicott (now called "Huron"), and I'm told things aren't all that great for them, either.  And yes, The Naked Building will be torn down.  The Long Goodbye is almost over.

Last week, the employees were told they would learn their fate "in three weeks".  I suppose that means we will all know in the next two weeks.  I'm still told BAE will "definitely" stay in our county - but where?

Or, when all is revealed, will we discover that our hopes were swept away with the flood?

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