Six-Alarm Fire Destroys Tenement at 116 Second Avenue and Severely Damages Historic Middle Collegiate Church, in East Village

Fire at 116 Second Avenue. Photo by Matt Pruznick

A six-alarm fire early Saturday morning has destroyed 116 Second Avenue, a vacant 15-unit, five-story tenement building in the East Village, and heavily damaged the 128-year-old Middle Collegiate Church directly next door. The blaze was first reported at 4:48 a.m. and quickly spread to the historic church at 112 Second Avenue, which is located between East 6th and 7th Streets. It took 44 units with 198 firefighters to contain the inferno, and four firefighters suffered minor, non-life-threatening injuries. A third structure on East 7th Street also caught fire, but luckily everyone inside was able to safely escape. There is still no word as to the exact cause of the fire at this moment.

Fire at 116 Second Avenue. Photo by Matt Pruznick

Incredibly, this is the second fire to have emanated from 116 Second Avenue this year. A three-alarm fire in the building in late February was attributed to faulty electrical wiring. Five firefighters were treated for minor injuries in that blaze and the two ground-floor retail tenants, Cafe Mocha and Via Della Pace, were forced to close.

Yesterday’s fire surely spells the end for the building, whose roof and floor plates have collapsed, leaving only an eerie masonry shell. Demolition will likely begin immediately after the fire is fully extinguished.

Fire at 116 Second Avenue. Photo by Matt Pruznick

It’s unclear what is in store for Middle Collegiate Church, whose nave has completely collapsed, though its steeple and main façade have remained largely intact. Its colorful Tiffany stained glass windows, however, were destroyed. Designed by S. B. Reed, the house of worship is co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church of America and will continue to hold virtual services lead by its senior minister Reverend Jacqui Lewis.

Fire at 116 Second Avenue. Photo by Matt Pruznick

This corner is no stranger to drama. Diagonally across the corner is the site of the 2015 gas explosion, which destroyed 119, 121, and 123 Second Avenue and killed two people. The tract is now giving rise to 45 East 7th Street, a seven-story condominium building from Morris Adjmi Architects. Given the residential desirability of the neighborhood, it’s probable 116 Second Avenue will eventually follow suit.

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6 Comments on "Six-Alarm Fire Destroys Tenement at 116 Second Avenue and Severely Damages Historic Middle Collegiate Church, in East Village"

  1. This is a tragic loss for the city; the historic importance, and vital presence of this congregation, in addition to the architectural distinction of the sanctuary cannot be overstated.
    It should be obvious that the greater good would be served by not developing 116 Second Avenue but rather deeding it to the church, in their rebuilding, or hopeful restoration.
    There are various avenues open to equitable compensation to properties owners, while still pursuing a goal of civic betterment;
    here’s a clear opportunity for choosing the high road.
    We wish Middle Colliegiate luck, and god’s speed.

  2. How unfortunate. I’m especially sad about the church. But what the heck is going on in this area? Fires, explosions, everything!

  3. David in Bushwick | December 6, 2020 at 10:14 am | Reply

    The facade of the church is clearly savable and should be. Most churches are struggling financially, so this could be an opportunity to build a new sanctuary behind the preserved facade with new housing built above that would provide ongoing operating income for the church. Save the facade.

  4. Extremely sad

  5. seems like that intersection is VERY unlucky! diagonally across from the church fire was the buildings that exploded from improper gas lines being installed. and i believe there was a previous fire on that corner recently as well. i can tell you where i wouldn’t want to move to.

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