In history class, I teach my students about the tenement buildings of the early 1900s. I tell them how the immigrants would load up the fire escapes with garbage and old furniture. The tenement buildings, many stories tall, became fire hazards. When one building started on fire an entire block was at risk! Also, babies were placed under the fire escapes during the day as parents went to work. Anyway, when I see an old building I remember these stories of the "old days".
As far as the photo I used a pencil etching filter to add a bit of interest. Also, I used my compensation settings on my camera to purposely create an image that was over exposed. I did this because it was getting dark and because I wanted a more "artsy" look. Also, the stairs are a bit darker, especially on top because I darkened them to stand out a bit more.