ON THE AVENUES: Breaking up is hard to do. Just ask the Reichstag.


ON THE AVENUES: Breaking up is hard to do. Just ask the Reichstag.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire … and then there’s the impromptu upstairs weenie roast that went slightly awry at That Luxury Apartment Project.

After spending the better part of two years busily photo-shopping himself into every aspect of the build-out at the Break Wind Lofts at Duggins Flats, Mayor Jeff Gahan is nowhere to be found in the aftermath of Saturday’s fire, which was explained earlier today (see below).

Gahan has managed to emit two brief and purely boilerplate press releases, but to be charitable (yeah, I’m playing against type here), he might be forgiven for curling up in a fetal position atop the ragged sofa, deep within the bowels of the command bunker, sucking his thumb and drinking Bud Light Lime through a straw.

After all, New Albany has bet one mighty honker of a pay packet on Break Wind’s supposedly transformative boost to trickle-down-town living, and Gahan has been right there to take credit for every last dollop of the hot-glued polymer. He’s poured the concrete, pounded the nails, sold the movie rights and has donned the lousy t-shirt.

While it remains unlikely, Gahan may even be astute enough to understand how much he has to lose if the 200-unit status symbol isn’t rebuilt — and more importantly, fully leased.

The mayor probably didn’t assess the social media response engendered by the inconvenient fire. Fittingly, John Q. Public fully supports the city’s firefighters and first responders, but even I was surprised by the tone of scattered conceptual vitriol (paraphrasing):

Why should firefighters risk their lives battling flames at an apartment complex that won’t be paying taxes to support the fire department until after most of today’s city employees are retired?


Why is the city subsidizing luxury housing for the benefit of those who already can afford to pay, when quality affordable housing is getting hard to find?

Flaherty & Collins Properties, which has undertaken a staggering number of housing “partnerships” with gullible local governmental units in Indiana and other states, says it plans to fulfill the mayoral mandate and rebuild the afflicted unit.

Until the developer receives a pained nod from its insurer, all we know for sure is that given the increasing pace of demolitions in New Albany, area landfills are the biggest winners.

Or should the word be “losers”?

Intriguingly, The Breakwater isn’t the first example of a fire at a Flaherty & Collins Properties development under construction.

Back in 2009, another luxurious Indianapolis development called The Cosmopolitan also experienced pre-opening flames, which subsequently were attributed to a deranged homeless man.

Eventually he was released from custody and the charges dropped owing to lack of  evidence. The Cosmopolitan complex subsequently was finished and opened to residents.

According to the News and Tribune, the official cause of the Breakwater conflagration was neither your friendly correspondent, who was asleep at the time, nor a carelessly discarded cigarette butt.

I don’t smoke cigarettes, people; let’s hope they didn’t find a cigar band. Actually it was an HVAC installer, who probably is out of a job at present.

According to an incident report released this afternoon, the fire likely began in the ceiling area above the mechanical room in apartment unit 217.

Joe Miller, an HVAC installer employed by Del Monde Heating and Air Conditioning, told investigators that he was soldering a copper line in the ceiling of that same unit on Fri., Feb. 24, sometime between 1 and 2:30 p.m. That’s when the insulation around the copper line caught fire.

Miller said he tried to put the fire out himself, using multiple fire extinguishers for approximately 45 minutes. He told investigators that he thought he extinguished the fire. Other contractors reported seeing smoke and knowing “something was on fire,” but nobody ever called the fire department.

It also bears noting that with the city of New Albany subsidizing an Indianapolis property juggernaut’s investment, essentially providing the sort of hedge against business failure that other small businesses don’t enjoy, the HVAC company cited in the preceding is located in Cincinnati.

That’s how much Flaherty & Collins supports localism.

George Santayana did not play shortstop for the Phillies. He was a philosopher (sorry, Shane), and is remembered primarily for these words.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Of course, most Americans forget history with clock-like regularity each morning while driving to work, even as they pluck fast food abominations from their paper sacks and issue social media proclamations against immigration, same-sex marriage and evolution, pausing only chant “Death to the Roundabout.”

Consequently, let’s review the history of the Reichstag fire.

Not long after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor or Germany in 1933 (by legal means), the parliament building in Berlin – Reichstag in German – caught on fire and was almost completely gutted.

The blaze provided the ideal pretext for Hitler and the Nazi party to blame their enemies for setting it, including Communists and Jews, quickly suspending the legal framework of the Weimar Republic and consolidating complete power in the hands of Hitler so he could properly combat the threat.

You probably know what happened next, although these days nothing can be taken for granted.

While it remains unclear exactly who masterminded the Reichstag arson, history’s general assumption is that one of Hitler’s accomplices did the deed under Der Fuehrer’s orders. Really, when you’re chomping at the bit to grab dictatorial power and murder millions of people, these matters simply can’t be left to chance.

Consequently, I’m severely disappointed in the mundane verdict of the Break Wind investigation. For one thing, Miller is not a Bulgarian-sounding name at all. What of motives? Did they check to see if he’d ever been sold a lemon by Coyle Chevrolet, or a bad meal at Frisch’s Big Boy?

In my addled imagination, I foresaw a dramatic press conference at the scene of smoldering ruins, and the revelation that Them Break Wind Lofts at Duh-Duggins Flats got torched by a militant, disgruntled former public housing resident who’d lost his or her home to Gahan’s escalating campaign against the poor — not to be confused with useful anti-poverty measures mostly unfamiliar to local DemoDisneyDixiecrats.

With the public housing resident (Mr. Van der Lubbe?) safely in custody, Gahan finally would possess all the reason he needs to close down the Housing Authority, courtesy of an edict from a board hand-packed with fawning sycophants.

The demolition orders duly signed and posted at the dog park, Gahan could then call in the pre-arranged school buses (rail cars are so very hard to find, and Superintendent Hibbard eager to help) and deport the impoverished to their new homes in the Knobs. Far better Mark Seabrook’s problem than a mayoral hologram eager to insure that the luxurious invitees aren’t exposed to the untidiness of the rabble.

I know; you’re right.

My imagined scenario is unlikely, though not because Gahan wouldn’t attempt it if offered the opportunity. Rather, it’s the all-purpose absence of political consciousness in New Albany.

Principled and politicized arson is as rare in this burg as a Democrat who grasps the necessity of affordable housing first, and not unenecessary corporate welfare for “luxury” companies already sufficiently capitalized to take investment risks on their own.

So, the Taj Mahal is to be repaired, and it looks like we’re going to get the Breaking Water we deserve.

If the unfortunate Mr. Miller needs a job, there’s always the anchor-certified NA ordinance enforcement division.

Recent columns:

February 23: ON THE AVENUES: A stern-side view of Gravity Head, nineteen times over.

February 16: ON THE AVENUES: In 2014 as in 2015, then 2016, now 2017 … yes, it’s the “Adamite Chronicles: Have muzzle, will drivel.”

February 9: ON THE AVENUES: I’d stop drinking, but I’m no quitter.

February 2: ON THE AVENUES: A luxury-obsessed Jeff Gahan has packed a board and now seeks to break the New Albany Housing Authority. Can we impeach him yet?