Monday, July 10, 2006

A Disturbing Headline From Manhattan

An apartment building in Manhattan exploded, and my first thought was that it was a bomb-building accident. It wasn't, though it was still, apparently, related to a crime:

A building collapsed in Midtown Manhattan this morning, brought down by an apparent explosion that sparked a blazing inferno and plumes of thick smoke in the heart of the city, the New York City Fire Department said.

The four-story structure at 34 East 62nd Street, between Madison and Park avenues, came down around 8:40 a.m., a Fire Department spokeswoman said. Public records show that the building housed a doctor's and dental office.


A police official told The Associated Press that the lawyer for the doctor's wife contacted police recently and said that she had received an e-mail from him in which the physician indicated he was contemplating suicide.

Because of this, 66-year-old Nicholas Bartha was being forced to sell the building. As a result of the situation, authorities believe that the explosion may be related to a suicide attempt involving gas, the police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

A horrible result from a horribly selfish act. To paraphrase a quote I read somewhere: "A murderer kills but one; a suicide murders a whole world."

UPDATE: The destruction of the building does not appear to be the result of a botched suicide attempt. Rather, it appears to be a deliberate and venal attempt to keep his wife from taking possession of their townhouse. It was greed alone that stopped a city and nearly killed over a dozen people. From a FindLaw archive of the Bartha divorce case:
The court found that Dr. Nicholas Bartha's wife, Cordula Bartha was entitled to a portion of the couple's New York City marital residence on East 62nd Street in Manhattan, finding the trial judge's "conclusion that [Mrs. Bartha] had no right to any portion of the marital residence or its appreciation in value was contrary to fundamental principles of equitable distribution."

Their townhouse was purchased for $395,000 in 1980, and according to the court, valued by a neutral appraiser in 2002 at $5 million.

Apparently, he blew up the building to keep the money from his wife. Life imitates Law and Order.

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