By Sabina Mollot
In the wake of Thursday’s steam-pipe explosion, the city has confirmed the presence of asbestos. Sixteen inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection have been tasked with investigating the presence of any asbestos in nearby buildings while the site of the explosion is also being monitored.
On Friday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality health advisory for the whole city through 11 p.m. The agency’s warning noted that active children and adults as well as anyone with respiratory problems reduce “prolonged or heavy exertion” outdoors.
The public is still being warned to stay away from the immediate area, where there are still emergency crews at work.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is also asking people who live or work close to Fifth Avenue and 21st Street to keep windows closed until the area is cleaned up. Residents are also being asked to set their window air conditioners to re-circulate indoor air and notify their landlord if they see debris that could be from the explosion.
Meanwhile, Con Ed employees are stationed at informational sites to help impacted commuters and Flatiron residents.
About 500 people in the neighborhood have been displaced from their homes as a result of 49 buildings being evacuated. They will not be allowed to return until their buildings have been checked for asbestos.
One informational site is the Clinton School, located at 10 East 15th Street. There, residents who cannot get back into their homes but need to get access to medical supplies or their pets can meet with Con Ed employees until 8 p.m.
At the corners of 19th Street and Broadway and 22nd Street and Broadway, Con Ed, through 8 p.m., are accepting bagged clothing if it was worn by people at the time of the explosion, following the utility’s recommendation to bag anything that had been worn at the time by New Yorkers within a block of the burst pipe. The immediate area is considered to be 500 feet east or west of 5th Avenue on 20th and 21st streets and 100 feet north and south on 5th Ave. (Clothing claim forms for people to receive compensation can also be obtained online at coned.com.)
Because multiple agencies are still investigating the scene, where there is still a massive crater, the following streets are still closed to traffic and pedestrians.
- West 23rd Street from 6th Avenue to Madison Avenue
- 5th Avenue from West 23rd Street to West 17th Street
- Broadway from West 23rd Street to West 17th Street
- All crosstown traffic from 6th Avenue to Broadway from West 23rd Street to West 17th Street
Trains are also bypassing the West 23rd Street station (the R and W Lines).
Detoured buses are the M1, M2, M3, M55, M23-SBS, X1, X10, X17, X27, X28
Delayed are BxM3, BxM4, BxM6, BxM7, BxM8, BxM9, BxM10, BxM11, BxM18, QM21, BM1, BM2, BM3, BM4.
By Thursday afternoon, the FDNY’s mass decontamination task force decontaminated around 100 individuals people, including FDNY personnel, Con Edison employees, and area residents As of 1:11 p.m. that day, the department said there were eight patients, five of them civilians and three emergency responders.
The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership has said in an emailed announcement that it is working to “ensure that life gets back to normal for our businesses and residents” and expects to be focused on this in the coming weeks.