We are on the scene at the Angel Orensanz Center, 172 Norfolk St., which was evacuated earlier this evening during a star-studded benefit for the venerable Soho Rep theater company. Deputy Fire Chief James Hodgens says a call came in at around 7:30 p.m., after caterers apparently set off fire alarms in the historic 1849 former synagogue building. There was no fire, but during an inspection prompted by reports from guests of a loud cracking noise, firefighters detected cracks in beams holding up the second floor. An evacuation was ordered and the Department of Buildings later declared the building off limits.
The spring gala was being hosted by actors Gretchen Mol and Tim Blake Nelson. Other performers in attendance included Steve Earle, Bobby Cannavale, Sally Field, Bill Irwin and Marisa Tomei. According to Cynthia Flowers, Soho Rep’s executive director, guests heard a loud cracking noise shortly after the fire alarms sounded, and people witnessed columns shifting. About 300 people were evacuated. A bar had been set up on the second floor and a large number of people were up there at the time. No one was injured.
Deputy Chief Hodgens told The Lo-Down’s Jennifer Strom that several wooden 12×12 beams were cracked. The city has placed a mandatory vacate order on the building; they’ll be back on the scene for a full investigation tomorrow morning. Hodgens said it was just a fluke that the fire alarms went off. By random chance, he said, disaster was averted.
Following the evacuation, the caterer served food outside and the stars made their way to Houston and Norfolk streets, where they proceeded to perform on the street corner.
Soho Rep is located at 46 Walker St. in Tribeca.
UPDATED 8:15 a.m. More photos from the scene last night: