New York City Fire Escapes

Many of us have these tiny balconies to hang out on on a nice day but we usually don’t. Why is that? What if a fireman sees you? Is it against the law? (Most people know you can’t grow your garden on your fire escape or use it for any other storage because whatever it is might block your escape from a fire. It’s in your lease.) Because you can see through them, being on them creates vertigo whether you are susceptible to vertigo or not. They usually look and feel flimsy. You wouldn’t jump up and down on them no matter what. Adding to the stigma, some people have thrown parties on fire escapes and the excess weight and crumbling construction has caused them to collapse (although a google search turned up nothing recent). Finally, you’re an exhibitionist if you hang out on your fire escape. The whole neighborhood can see you letting it all hang out when maybe they’re just used to blurry glimpses of you naked every few months. Are you cool with that?

Before air conditioners, people would sleep on them on the hot humid summer nights as seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Also famously, Nick uses the fire escape to visit his neighbor Murray in A Thousand Clowns, while Murray uses it as his soap box. “Everybody out in the street for calisthenics and volleyball!” Something like that.

I have a misremembered memory of Batman talking to the citizens of Gotham (Sammy Davis in German here; Lurch here) on fire escapes as he climbed up the sides of buildings but then climbing up a fire escape would’ve been too easy for Batman.

Please enjoy these fire escape portfolios and essays.

2 thoughts on “New York City Fire Escapes”

  1. Those are some classy looking fires escapes. When apartment hunting once a broker tried to pass off a fires escape as a balcony, and it was smaller, and far less classy, than those fire escapes in your photo. It also added about $200 a month to the rent.

    I have a real fire escape now. Friends and I have tried using it for recreation — “A fire escape, oh how romantic!” — but it only fits about two thirds a hungry model and threatens to collapse with full application of body weight.

    Makes me wonder about what would happen in the event of a real fire. Even Batman, I think, would have a rough time of it.

  2. Those are some classy looking fires escapes. When apartment hunting once a broker tried to pass off a fires escape as a balcony, and it was smaller, and far less classy, than those fire escapes in your photo. It also added about $200 a month to the rent.

    I have a real fire escape now. Friends and I have tried using it for recreation — "A fire escape, oh how romantic!" — but it only fits about two thirds a hungry model and threatens to collapse with full application of body weight.

    Makes me wonder about what would happen in the event of a real fire. Even Batman, I think, would have a rough time of it….

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