While they were tearing down the big Toys R Us in Times Square, construction workers came across the remains of a theatre in the basement. Dated to 1895, the Olympia Theatre was one of the first attractions in Times Square.
I vividly remember the Toys R Us as a place I used to go to 10, 15 years ago. It had such features as a giant ferris wheel and a huge animatronic tyrannosaurus rex. Like many such places in Manhattan in which I used to haunt, it is now gone—merely the foundation for another Layer to be built on top of it.
Similarly, directly across the street from my house construction is underway for a brand new school. It was built on the site of a notorious abandoned house that used to cause my neighborhood much vexation. A few years ago, a trans woman was murdered in the backyard of that abandoned house, bludgeoned to death with a cinder block. But now another Layer has been added, and memories quickly fade away.
So then I think about all the Layers of that spot across the street…hundreds of years ago, that area was most likely farmland of some type. Then, sometime in the last century, the new house was built; a house full of beginnings and optimism.
But then the owner of the house grew old (I’m assuming all of this), with offspring or offspring of offspring who were uninterested both in maintaining the home and living in the area. The elderly parents moved out or passed on, and the house was locked up; the land unsold and, for all intents and purposes, abandoned.
It now became a shelter for homeless people, a quick stop for sexual encounters, and a site for vandalism and trash. We have now gone through several Layers. It gets set on fire a couple of times (perhaps by “concerned citizens,” it is whispered through the neighborhood), but the structure survives.
Sometime during all this drama, the woman is murdered; it makes hardly a blip on the radar of the community. We had only found out about it because cops knocked on our door 4 in the morning, asking if we heard a struggle or any screaming during the night.
And then the government finally steps in and takes possession of the land, earmarking it for a new school. So begins the arduous process of tearing down the structure, much as what is currently happening at the Times Square site.
Layers are revealed as the bulldozers go in; walls are torn down and its contents spill out onto the ground. I took hundreds of photos from my window.
And now is the new Layer, this megalith of a building that every day gets a little taller, a little sturdier; concrete poured over metal, white shroud-like tarps waving in the wind.
Where will I be when this building is finished? Where will I be when whatever is going up over the former site of both the Toys R Us and Olympia Theatre is constructed?
Who will I be? What Layer will exist at that time?