Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
Madison the Cat Is Safe! Oh, the Avenue's O.K., Too
By James Barron

Yesterday was a good day for Madison the cat and Madison the avenue. One was reunited with his owner, examined by a veterinarian and found to be fine. The other was reopened to traffic.

For the first time since loose bricks from a high-rise building rained down on Madison Avenue last Sunday, nearby stores were allowed to open and cars and buses were finally permitted on a two-block stretch between 53d and 55th Streets. The avenue had been closed all week while construction crews worked to shore up the damaged facade and until the city finished putting up a tunnel-like scaffold between 54th and 55th to protect cars and buses in case any more bricks fell from the high-rise.

And after a 10-minute rescue mission, Madison the tabby was freed from his owner's apartment at 536 Madison Avenue, a couple of doors down from the brick-shedding high rise. Mike Tietje of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and three employees of the city's Office of Emergency Management climbed the stairs to the top-floor apartment where Madison spent the week by himself.

His owner, Tim Curran, 27, a bartender and unemployed Wall Street stock trader who was forced to leave his apartment on Sunday because of the precarious situation, spent the week in a nearby hotel, worrying.

"If they want to come to you fast, they will," Mr. Tietje said, and Madison did. "It came out of the closet in the rear room. It started to run around us. It was scared because it didn't know us."

Shortly after Mr. Tietje carried Madison to safety, stores across from the damaged high-rise reopened for the first time since the bricks pelted the street. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani went shopping, buying $71 worth of wine and stopping in cosmetics and candy shops. Officials said that buildings on the other side of the street would be allowed to reopen soon, probably tomorrow.

That was a relief to tenants like Dr. Frederick Kahn, a dentist at 538 Madison Avenue. The emergency workers who accompanied Mr. Tietje to free Madison retrieved Dr. Kahn's appointment book yesterday.

Next door, crews continued to shore up the damaged high-rise. William G. Nagle, a deputy director of the Office of Emergency Management, said bracing and structural supports had been put in. After construction workers discovered that the weakened wall was in worse condition than had been believed, work crews were ordered to reinforce it with wooden planks and steel rods.

By nightfall, traffic had been allowed back on the closed-off section of the avenue. Workers had put up waist-high barriers between 53d and 54th Streets, forming a pair of traffic funnels leading to the mini-tunnel covering the avenue between 54th and 55th.

"A building that was as high as this one, with bricks falling off, they had to make sure it was secure" before allowing traffic on the street below, the Mayor said.

City officials said on Monday that water damage to the building, accumulated from years of neglect, probably caused the damage. Mr. Giuliani said yesterday that he had also asked the city's Department of Investigation to look into the accident.

For Mr. Curran, yesterday marked the end of a week of worrying over the fate of his beloved cat. As Mr. Tietje rescued Madison, Mr. Curran waited with emergency workers on the street and heard the good news over a walkie-talkie: "We have the cat. We have the cat." Mr. Tietje wrapped Madison in a blue blanket and carried him down the stairs.

Then it was off to a familiar place: A.S.P.C.A. headquarters on East 92d Street, where Mr. Curran adopted him about four years ago.

He weighed in at 16.9 pounds, about the same as before his week alone in Mr. Curran's apartment. After a checkup, Madison's condition was described in five words Mr. Curran was happy to hear: none the worse for wear.

"He certainly didn't seem hungry," said Peter Paris, a spokesman for the association. "We believe he did actually manage to make it to some food during the week."

It certainly wasn't takeout. No one, whether tenants, letter carriers or delivery people, had been allowed in all week. The rescue came after The New York Times described Mr. Curran's frustration at not being able to see or free his cat.

After Mr. Curran had taken Madison to a friend's apartment on East 85th Street, city officials said that they would have sent someone in on Thursday had Mr. Curran been there with his keys.

"Whoever he was told to see, he didn't see," said Bruce Brodoff, a spokesman for the city's Emergency Management Office.

Mr. Curran disputed that, saying that he was never given such instructions and that the officials he had spoken with at the command post on 54th Street did not have clearance to enter the building.

It turned out that Madison was not the only cat stuck on the block, or even in his building. Holed up in the ground-floor restaurant in Mr. Curran's building was Mera, a white cat with a camel-colored tail and a fondness for tuna. Never mind that his owner, Steve Tsirnikas, described Mera as "a cheeseburger cat."

Mr. Tsirnikas had left food for Mera on Tuesday, when he entered the restaurant through a basement entrance. But he could not find her. Yesterday, when he went in again, "she was all over me."

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