Jazz Notes: FDNY fireman dies battling St. Nick’s fire

Ron Scott | 3/29/2018, 3:02 p.m.
St. Nick’s Pub had been a resounding jazz voice since its 1940 inception. It was known as Luckey’s Rendezvous, owned ...
St. Nick's Pub Ron Scott

St. Nick’s Pub had been a resounding jazz voice since its 1940 inception. It was known as Luckey’s Rendezvous, owned by Charles Luckeyeth Roberts, a pianist, composer and band leader. His nightly jam sessions included jazz icons such as Art Tatum, Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker.

Thursday evening, March 22, at approximately 11 p.m., Harlem’s little history-making jazz mecca at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. (at 149th Street) became engulfed in flames, turning into a five-alarm fire. According to the FDNY, the fire, which spread fast throughout the building, drew 39 FDNY vehicles and 175 firefighters.

One of those fearless firemen, Michael R. Davidson (Engine Company 69, Ladder #28) lost his life during the horrific blaze. He was responsible for operating the fire hose nozzle for the company, the first to arrive, the NYFD said.

“He was somehow separated from other firefighters when the blaze intensified and forced them to pull back from the building,” Daniel A. Nigro, the New York City fire commissioner said. When he was found by other firefighters, he was unconscious and critically injured. He was taken to Harlem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. At the time of this writing the coroner had not released the exact cause of death.

Davidson, 37, from Floral Park, Long Island, was cited for bravery and life-saving actions on four occasions. He is the son of retired firefighter Robert Davidson, and his brother Eric is an 11-year veteran of Engine Company 88 in the Bronx.

Commissioner Nigro said during a news conference early Friday morning, “Fighting a fire in a cellar is one of the most dangerous tasks that firefighters take on, and that in a building that isn’t fireproof, like the one on St. Nicholas Avenue, flames are liable to spread rapidly. Several other firefighters had less serious injuries and three civilians received minor injuries.”

As of this writing the cause of the fire has not yet been determined. The building was completely gutted, and the adjacent buildings appear to have sustained damage from the blaze as well. 

“Firefighter Davidson bravely battled many fires and responded to countless calls for help from New Yorkers throughout his 15 years of dedicated service,” Nigro said later in a statement. “Our department and our entire city mourn this tragic loss of a very brave firefighter.”

Davidson is survived by his wife, Eileen, three daughters ages 7, 3 and 1 and a 6-year-old son. He is the 1,150th firefighter in the 153-year history of the department to die in the line of duty, said the commissioner. Davidson’s wake in Floral Park and his funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral were held earlier this week.

When the fire broke out in the basement, the former jazz spot was being rented as a film location for the 1950s set of “Motherless Brooklyn,” a Warner Bros film starring Bruce Willis and Ed Norton, who is also the director. It was reported that Norton and other actors were on the scene during the dreadful fire.

The producers of “Motherless Brooklyn” expressed their “deepest condolences” to Davidson’s family Friday morning. Mayor Bill de Blasio had the flags at City Hall put at half-staff to honor Davidson.