Toxic Substance at Sotheby’s! House HazMat Team Cleans Up

The high-end auction-house business is considered among the more genteel of professions. But apparently it has its perils—and not just for those who bid over their heads. On Dec. 5, the NYPD was summoned to Sotheby’s after three employees were exposed to a toxic substance.

The substance in question wasn’t formaldehyde that leaked from some Damien Hirst shark tank after competing buyers came to blows in an effort to take it home. Rather, the workers were exposed to mercury after a grandfather clock they were unpacking at the 1334 York Avenue location at 10:20 a.m. was discovered to be leaking.

The area was sealed off, and the workers—three males age 35, 38 and 44—were decontaminated, along with E.M.S. workers who responded to the scene. Then the Sotheby’s employees, complaining of headaches, were removed to New York Presbyterian–Weill Cornell Hospital.

The contaminated area was scrubbed by Sotheby’s HazMat team (who knew Sotheby’s had a HazMat team?) in conjunction with an FDNY HazMat team, and the area was deemed safe.

In a separate incident at Sotheby’s that occurred on Oct. 11 but wasn’t reported to the police until Dec. 2, $50,000 worth of various wines consigned to the auction house went missing from a storage area. A security video of the space revealed no suspicious activity.

Mug Shots

Fists, or rather mugs, were flying on Fifth Avenue and 81st Street, according to cross complaints filed at the 19th Precinct on Dec. 5. The victim in the first report, the employer, told the police that her housekeeper grabbed a coffee mug out of her hand and threatened to strike her with it. Fearing for her safety, the boss tried to grab it back, struggling with her coffee-cup-brandishing assailant. In the process of doing so, she says, she fell to the floor and injured her neck. However, her injury didn’t prevent her from getting to Lenox Hill Hospital, where she was treated and released.

Her employee, unsurprisingly, has a drastically different take on the incident. She says that her boss was the one wielding the mug with deadly precision. She claims that her boss hit her over the head with the crockery, then threw hot tea in her face, causing a minor abrasion—and that she has a bump on her head to prove it.

She was also removed to Lenox Hill Hospital, where she apparently didn’t run into her boss. The employer was said to have fled the apartment in a taxicab. The worker, a 44-year-old Queens resident, had high blood pressure and was suffering from chest pains as a result of the incident. However, she might also have the last word: In her complaint, the employer put her age as 37; her housekeeper, who ought to know, says she’s actually 40.

Brown-Bagging It

Perhaps it’s no surprise that anyone who decides to take his bike for a ride at 4 a.m., as one East 94th Street resident did on Nov. 13, has a surfeit of courage—either that, or he doesn’t mind getting mugged. The victim was standing at the corner of 94th Street and Madison Avenue at that desolate hour when a male approached him and stated, “Give me your money. I have a gun.”

And to prove it, he produced a brown paper bag. “No,” his unimpressed victim observed, “you have a paper bag.”

The perp admitted that, yes, he was indeed carrying a paper bag, but the gun was inside the bag.

The bicyclist either didn’t believe him or felt physical activity was the answer to his insomnia, because he grabbed the lock off his bike and struck his assailant on the left side of the head with it. That took the fight out of the attacker, who was last seen fleeing toward Fifth Avenue.

Dangerous Urges

Before starting to take incriminating photographs of crooks trying to disable MetroCard machines, as one token-booth clerk did at the 77th Street and Lexington Avenue subway stop on Nov. 23, you probably ought to ask yourself whether you’ll need to leave the bullet-proof safety of your booth to go to the bathroom before either the crooks disperse or the cops arrive.

That’s the mistake a 56-year-old transit employee made at 4:17 p.m. after she snapped pictures of a couple of perps messing with the machines so that they could sell passengers turnstile “swipes.”

“I’m going to fuck you up when you come out of there,” one of the suspects threatened.

And come out she did—because she apparently couldn’t hold it any longer. One of the bad guys grabbed her while the other punched her and pushed her against the booth. The municipal employee also suffered a bruise when she hit her head against a step. And one of the thieves threw a bottle at her, the vessel hitting her in the leg and breaking into pieces.

The good thing about attacks at busy subway stations at the start of the afternoon rush hour is that there tend to be cops in the vicinity, as there were in this case. The officers arrived promptly and arrested the crooks, one 16, the other 18, for assault.