Editorial: Will the city guarantee our safety?

When the concrete jungle starts exploding, seemingly out of nowhere, shutting down much of a neighborhood for a week (with some buildings still off limits!) the first question is what happened and why? Then of course one has to ask when could this happen again and where? And whose fault was this?

The steam pipes underneath the streets’ surface are Con Ed’s to maintain but the company has not yet been able to explain the cause of such a major pipe malfunction although we can certainly guess. The system and this city’s infrastructure are old. This isn’t the first steam blast to rock a neighborhood and probably won’t be the last. Still, it’s a scary thought that these geysers-in-waiting can shatter right through the concrete at any time.

So it now has to be asked what can be done to prevent future catastrophes like the one in Flatiron last Thursday and whether the city and Con Ed will commit to some plan of action.

It is miraculous that no one was seriously injured as a result of this recent blast. (Just ask our company driver who nearly drove into it had it not been for a red light!) We believe Con Ed and the city are doing a thorough job in inspecting and cleaning the impacted buildings and in communicating their progress. Additionally, on Tuesday Con Ed made a statement on Twitter that once the cleanup is finished the utility would conduct a “thorough investigation” into what caused the pipe to break. That’s a good start. We will hold them to it!

Moving onto another safety issue, Town & Village has heard from a few readers over the week in response to our story about a woman who had her nose broken in a random assault by a 13-year-old charge of the Administration for Children’s Services Facility in Kips Bay.

The incident was disturbing not only for its casual, broad-daylight brutality but the fact that it was hardly an isolated incident. We’ve previously reported on various arrests of teens staying at the facility’s children’s center over allegations of robbery as well assault in recent months.

According to the child welfare agency, steps have recently been taken to keep the community safe from their young residents, from implementing programming aimed at making them want to stay on site as opposed to hanging out on the streets, to hiring dozens of new officers. We don’t know exactly how recently these changes were made but we can only hope that they’re so recent that these officers are still in training and this is the reason the community has yet to see a decline in incidents like this.

We don’t want to diminish the importance of the work by ACS in giving young people in need of emergency housing a place to call home temporarily. However, the presence of a social services facility aimed at helping people should not be an excuse to sacrifice the safety and quality of life of the community’s other residents. If we seem skeptical about the agency’s progress, it’s because the city just doesn’t have a good track record. Look, for example, at improvements in safety that were only made at the nearby men’s homeless shelter after high profile crimes, including a rape at a Kips Bay bar. And that happened years after neighbors had voiced their concerns about the shelter residents’ out of control behavior.

Again, what has to happen here for the neighborhood to see real results? The ACS has committed to changes, and time (not to mention the exasperated community) will tell if they’re meaningful.

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