Last Monday morning, this reporter (and hundreds of others) raced over to 34 East 62nd Street, where firefighters were still trying to put out the flames, following a massive explosion. Details began to emerge: it was not a terrorist attack, but allegedly the work of a distraught doctor, Nicholas Bartha.
Of course, there was the rambling 14-page email, that was first published in its entirety on The Real Estate. Also, The Observer interviewed Mark Baum, the doctor’s real estate broker of the past six years, who received the email that morning.
Now, the author of that email, the suspected culprit in this headline-grabbing tragedy, has died. On Saturday night, Dr. Bartha–who had been in a coma for almost a week–passed away at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital. He was 66.
Certainly, the Dr. Bartha story had all the ingredients of a Manhattan media frenzy: divorce, madness, and a 19th century townhouse exploding on a tony, Upper East Side block. The New York Times had at least 10 reporters working on a single story, and the local tabloids conjured up such headlines like “Dr. Death” and “Honey, I Blew Up The House.”
This weekend, The Times offered several more stories on the Upper East Side blast: less breaking news and more analysis.
Architectural critic Christopher Gray wrote about how “this unusual block has lost its oldest building.” James Barron–who’s been following the story all week–reported on how next door neighbors are now coming back to East 62nd Street.
And Randy Kennedy examined the particularly New York response to the news. As 740 Park author Michael Gross told Mr. Kennedy: “It wasn’t 17 seconds after it happened that people were talking about the worth of the lot–this is New York.”
Indeed, the real estate value was analyzed too, and the New York Post reported that the lot could be worth more now without the historic brownstone on it. While some believe the property value is “set to boom,” several Upper East Side brokers told The Real Estate that it will be many years before anything is built there.
Perhaps as he wished all along, Dr. Bartha has died, taking his account of that morning with him. But hopefully, the unfortunate victims of this explosion–whether an innocent bystander or firefighter–will make full recoveries. Obviously, there are some things–even in Manhattan’s luxury real estate market–more important than property values.
– Michael Calderone