Any way you look at it, this isn't good. The scaffolding and netting around Chumley's the past few months should have all given us pause. Now the wall has collapsed and the grand old former speakeasy's future is in danger. Read the Curbed.com minute-by-minute account for all the details.
If this city was run correctly—that is, as if it possessed a soul—and if the civic leaders had any real care or feeling for New York, any danger to the Chumley's building would have been looked into months ago. Why does this cherished business have a conventional, blood-sucking slumlord anyway? The building should be owned by the City, which would charge a nominal rent. Chumley's has earned that much, as have dozens of living landmarks. How long does a place like Chumley's have to contribute to the cultural life of the city before it's regarded as what it is: a living, breathing museum.
Mayor Bloomberg should be down on Bedford Street right now holding a press conference, assuring New Yorkers that Chumley's will rise again. Instead, he'll soon probably start telling people what a great job the city's doing in protecting the public by tearing the joint down. The willful indifference to New York's architectural and mercantile treasures by this Godforsaken town's government and business leaders makes me ill.
UPDATE: Chumley's will not be torn down, at least for now. But the bar is closed indefinitely.