Friday, August 10, 2012

Red Hook Grain Terminal

A sharp, curved hand digs deep into my shoulder and pushes me hard into the stone-grey pillar. I open my mouth in protest but a hand is placed around it.
"Don't move", my cohort whispers, barely emitting a breath.
He looks around the ground floor, then asks me,
"Did you hear that?"
Still too taken aback, unaware of what is going on, I am confused.
He motions with his fingers that there are people up ahead.
Yes I heard beeping, but that was there the first night we were here...wasn't it?

July 4th

   It had been 6 months from the day I did my first recon of this immense building. Christmas Eve, when I assumed no stray workers would be lurking. As I hopped the fence that day, my shoes rattled the small stones that led to the complex. I heard a vehement, almost purposeful cough. One that clearly said, "Turn back." I didn't have to be told twice, and tailed it. But here it is, summertime, during the Fourth of July, and I'm thinking,
This is probably the tallest abandoned building in the whole city. I'm sure that the view of the fireworks from up here would be phenomenal.
   I called up a friend and we waited out in the park, where several other people were present, most likely also wishing to get a view of the fireworks. In the meantime, a police car drove by as slowly as it could, probably checking for any illicit fireworks.
   Now, my adventures generally occur along the waterfront. This mandates that I check the tide. Unfortunately, little did I know that the time we would be getting in was peak high tide...making the rocks that I skipped along last time inaccessible. Instead, we decided to climb a tall fence to get in there, which would make for a good vantage point along with great cover as we were partially obscured by nearby trees. We hung on from the side of the concrete slabs with our fingertips, and dropped down to the concrete as quietly as we could. My eyes scaled the wall that we had just bypassed. Now let me tell you, it doesn't matter how high you can do a wallrun; you're most likely not going to be able to do it to something 15 feet high. Maybe you can drop down from it, but getting up is another story.
   I pushed the idea of getting back aside in my mind. What mattered for the moment was that we were in. Now, the climb. I would have loved to stop to admire the scenery on each "floor" but decided that would wait for another day...fireworks would be starting soon. After passing through floors with giant busted-out holes as well as staircases that were almost completely obliterated, we made our way to the top and watched the scene.
   As we were admiring the view, from which one could witness New Jersey, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan, we went back down where we saw some lights flashing in the park.
"Do you see that?", we asked each other, both paranoid.
"Alright", my partner rationed, "these lights don't seem to be coming up here; only along the general work area by the terminal. Still, to be safe, let's assume that everyone is security and head out of here." Considering that we had also heard an alarm-like low beep at the top floor, it was the safe option to get out of there.
So, not being able to fully enjoy the area, we made our climb back down and strolled into the park, putting on as innocent a gait as we could manage.

A few weeks later...

"Dude, I think she's sucking his dick."

   The air was crisp. A thunderstorm was blowing in, and rain was coming down, first in drops, but later in sheets. I thought This is rooftopping weather. 
   The higher up you go, the better the air is, which is why I always like to have meals high up. One thing about going to an abandoned building is that the stale air of the decaying structure will contrast so sharply with the ineffably fresh breeze that greets you at the very top of the building. Another great thing about getting elevated during rain is that, as I believe OM2 pointed out, not many people look up when it rains, decreasing our chances of potentially being seen by passerby below.
   I called up my contact again and told him that this storm was the paragon of an exploration climate, and he agreed. We went out to Red Hook, but were met with a problem almost immediately: workers. That's alright, we could wait them out. After they left, however, a young couple walked by...and sat right by our entry point. Not for a five minute rest, mind you. They were there for several hours.
  Once we decided that we couldn't wait any longer, we decided not to care about public opinion and just go for it. My heart gave its signature skip when we hopped the fence. As we do so, my friend tells me, "I don't think they noticed us. You see how her head is on his lap? I think she's sucking his dick."
  If this were the case, then one fellatio just made the night of four people, and with some daylight behind us, we managed to explore all around the building. When we got to the roof, we kept it low and dined on a chicken sandwich and chips. The wind was not as sharp as I would have expected it to be, but it was still hoodie weather...some of my favorite exploring weather.
  On our way down, we admired the scenery from various windows and checked out some cool machinery within the building itself. Feeling much like detectives, we discerned several things: there are trolley like tracks which span the floor of the terminal which go directly under a chute, and we realized that a mechanical wheelbarrow of sorts must have run along those tracks to pick up the grain.
  A prominent experience in our descent was what I like to call: the sketch room. It is a room where there are boiler-like tanks and absolutely no graffiti spans the walls, because the only way to get a view of the boiler is by crossing a dilapidated metal grate which is in danger of falling out at any second. Tread as lightly as you can with ninja-like steps and hang onto the railing, but it's very little consolation if the floor falls beneath you. And accidents do happen.
   We head down. I want to explore every inch. But we can't. I am slammed into the wall. And my friend says he sees people. We realized he probably didn't, but if there was anywhere to find an alarm, it would be the ground floor. So, we make our way up and around the 150 foot building because so many doors are blockaded, and a straightforward exfiltration is nigh impossible. As we go down this labyrinth, I got complacent at one of the staircases. My hands clutch rail. But my feet do not feel any floor below me. My stomach does a backflip. If I wasn't hanging on to the handrail, I would be falling now. Crashing into the next staircase. I try to throw the idea out of my mind and focus on the thought that, for now, I am alive.
   The building becomes smaller and smaller behind us as we leave the workplace, cross the park, and head back home. Big, old, gray and decaying. Beautiful.

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