Late Summer Scene: Fifth Avenue Construction Site

Looking for Rubble in the Metal

Looking for Rubble in the Metal

At West 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, a group of construction workers pick up metal pieces from the rubble of a torn-down office building. All in all, nine men are involved in this exercise. Four work outside, putting up a wooden fence around the premises. They work in pairs, each taking turns to climb up a ladder and mount up adjoining sections of the fence. They are all wearing helmets, gloves, and heavy-duty boots. Three of them look middle-aged. The other one seems a bit older, somewhere just south of 55.

Inside, there are two excavators—each manned by an individual. These excavators are Caterpillar-made, the 345B hydraulic models. Between the machines, three men, all wearing blue helmets and gloves, are picking up metal pieces mixed in the rubble. They are separating any metal they find from the rest of the debris. The excavators dig deep into hollowed-out sections of the old building and shift out their collections—a combination of bricks, stones, sand and iron—into the center of the premises. And the men sift through that, looking for iron and metal. Sometimes, they look for a while before they find anything. Other times, they quickly find significant amounts of metal crushed within the rubble.

As the workers pick up the metal, their colleagues operating the excavators take a break. They wait as the men on the ground finish unscrambling a heap of debris. But sometimes, the excavators also take part in the search, too, using their machines to help unearth more metal. The teeth of their buckets tear deep into the dump and spread out the debris, enabling the workers to find easy pickings.

They work hard. Occasionally, they help one another pull out large pieces, pieces too heavy for one person to handle. And whatever they pick out, they throw into a nearby waste dump.