Twenty wooden finger-slicing and photogenic escalators carved from oak and ash have survived a $400 million, four year renovation aimed at turning Macy's Herald Square into an "upscale global shopping destination," to the relief of many sentimental Forgotten New York junkies.
The NY Times, getting as misty-eyed as the next guy over the clacking c. 1920 conveyors ("Bu-da-bumbum, they go. Bu-da-bumbum, bu-da-bumbum, bu-da-bumbum") points out that the best spot to gawk at the very vintage and authentic artifacts is on the sixth floor of the store, where four escalators converge at one landing—No. 55 and 65 going up, No. 54 and 64 going down.
Otis, the world's biggest "vertical transportation system" company, installed all of the surviving escalators, plus an additional 20 that have since been renovated with metal treads, at a time when Otis still had a patent on the term. (A set of original Otis elevators were installed in 1902, with flat steps.)
But while the remaining wooden treads are instagrammable, they're also wide-set enough to catch a baby's finger. In 2005, a little girl's finger was sliced off when she tripped on them and, in 2006, a two-year-old's thumb was nearly severed during the Christmas rush. And in 2010 4-year-old Maxlee Gell lost a finger when he leaned over to pick up a water bottle he'd dropped on the escalator.
To appease fears, Macy's has added automatic switches that will stop the escalators in response to a sudden jolt.
But safety concerns have done little to slow so-called "handrailfanning," the term for fanatically obsessing over and admiring these specific wooden escalators—an activity that's perhaps more authentic than holiday window display fanning.