By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Although the street was closed to foot and car traffic until Monday night due to the explosion, the owners of one business on West 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue felt the need to reopen as quickly as possible.
The Malibu Diner has a close relationship with the residents of Selis Manor, a residence and social service agency for the blind farther east on the block, and diner owner Alex Grimpas said that it was important for nearby residents that they reopened quickly.
“We wanted to be open as soon as possible so (Selis Manor residents) know they’re not by themselves,” Grimpas said. “It wasn’t about making money but it was to help the community.”
Malibu has been in Chelsea for the last 40 years and Grimpas said that his staff is trained to serve the residents of Selis Manor, making sure their food is cut up and that they get discounted meals.
The diner started a program a few years ago with Selis Manor that uses a voucher system to provide at-cost breakfasts for residents, and they wanted to continue the relationship with the residents.
Grimpas said that the diner was able to reopen partially due to encouragement from Selis Manor resident Barbara Police, who pushed Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow the restaurant to reopen despite other businesses being told to evacuate.
“I’ve been going to Malibu for a long time,” Police said. “They’ve always been behind us.”
The diner prepared 200 meals on Sunday and another 200 on Monday with the help of the Red Cross to provide food for residents whose kitchens were damaged in the blast.
None of the residents of Selis Manor were among the 29 who were injured, according to the New York Times, but the explosion shattered residents’ windows and left them shaken.
“That night was terrifying,” Police said. “I was watching TV, as much as I can watch, when all of a sudden we heard this boom. My friend on the fourth floor had glass come in on her back. Thankfully there were no serious injuries. Twenty-nine were taken in and 29 were released.”
The bombing occurred last Saturday night around 8:30 p.m. in front of 131 West 23rd Street. New Jersey resident Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was charged on Tuesday with the use of weapons of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use and other crimes.
A report from news blog Vox said that the bomb caused minimal damage because Rahami, who allegedly planted the bomb, hid the device in a dumpster, which absorbed much of the impact.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said on Tuesday that there are a number of unusual circumstances surrounding the bombing.
“No organization has claimed the credit for this,” she said. “ISIS has claimed credit for the incident in Minnesota but no one has claimed the credit for this one.”
Maloney also noted that it was atypical that this bombing occurred when and where it did.
“These incidents usually target iconic New York places like the incident with the smoking car in Times Square (in 2010),” she said. “There were a number of large gatherings throughout the city this weekend but this took place in a quiet neighborhood without many people around.”
The congresswoman said that she was grateful there were no fatalities, but she noted that this was a “significant blast.” There has been no other major damage, she said, although the stained glass windows at the nearby St. Vincent de Paul church were partially destroyed.