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The Tenant of the Federal Building

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I'm seeking information about an old newspaper article I only remember, from sometime in 1970 or 1971; the article was about a unique form of vandalism in the old Federal Building / United States Pavilion, and appeared in the Queens Sunday supplement section of either the News or the Post.

The vandalism was credited to an unknown "electrical genius" dubbed "The Tenant", and involved extensive renovation and modification of the old elevators and escalators -- which were, oddly enough, still fully powered, and ready to be restored to service. The article was full of fun quotes about this mysterious individual, including anonymous park workers saying, "He's working with voltages twice that of the electric chair. One day we'll find him -- dead!" The Tenant was said to be living in the building, splitting his time between resurrecting/reconfiguring various electrical systems and creating massive obscene wall murals.

I am not The Tenant, but I knew him and was with him on most of his adventures in the Federal Building (and other dead pavilions from which he scavenged spare elevator parts.)

"The Tenant" was a student at the Bronx High School of Science, known to us as "Crazy John". No, he did not live in the Federal Building, no, he did not make that obscene mural, and he wasn't really a "vandal" as usually conceived. In fact, on a visit after that article appeared, he wrote in large letters on a nearby wall, "ANY F***ERS CAUGHT VANDALIZING THIS PLACE WILL BE SUBJECT TO THE WRATH OF THE TENANT!!!"

I have some amazing memories of that place.

I was at the party thrown on July 4th, 1970, with tons of drugged hippies in an old ballroom rocking out to an enormous sound system. The party came to an abrupt end when some unsupervised "guest" flipped a switch that turned on the outer building lights (the light tubes behind the large bluegreen panels) -- thereby guaranteeing an undesired visit from the nearby police headquarters -- and we all beat a hasty escape.

One time, we encountered some more traditional vandals inside the building, which displeased CJ greatly. So he lured them into starting down a stairwell, then slammed the stairwell door, yelling, "So long, suckers!" The door locked behind them, as CJ had reconfigured the lock on that and other doors throughout the building. The entire lower floor was a large, darkened trap, and as we continued on our regularly scheduled business, we heard them pounding on doors until we eventually went home for the night. (I assume they would have been rescued within a day or so, but who knows. I suppose we would have read about it if they went undiscovered until demolition.)

I was in the elevator control room during the incident that inspired the "electric chair" comment. Crazy John was doing something with some equipment and had me using a wooden dowel to hold an electrical relay shut. Suddenly, the relay started spraying blue sparks and I jumped back to see a pool of melted metal on the floor. He said that wasn't supposed to happen, and told me the blue light was copper ions. I was tripping on LSD at the time, as were we all.

Good times! God I miss that place.

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