Impacted businesses advised to file claims with Con Edison or insurance

Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito speaks to building owners at a meeting held on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Flatiron businesses owners impacted by last week’s steam blast were told on Monday night that they may have some recourse for their losses in the form of insurance claims or claims with Con Edison.

Representatives from the utility, the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Health, Small Business Services and the Department of Environmental Protection offered updates on the ongoing investigation and clean-up effort during a meeting at the Clinton School in Union Square on Monday night.

Joseph Esposito, the commissioner for the Office of Emergency Management, said that as of Monday night, 17 buildings had been cleared for reoccupancy and the OEM announced that 16 additional buildings had been cleared by Wednesday morning, with 12 still needing to be cleaned and checked before they can be reoccupied.

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Air asbestos free, city says, but evacuated buildings still off limits

July26 Con Ed cleanup

A Con Ed crew cleaning up the street on Friday (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

The air is asbestos-free, the city said, after testing samples following the steam pipe explosion, on Friday evening. While some debris samples contained asbestos, it’s unlikely people exposed will become ill since “asbestos-related illnesses usually develop after many years of exposure,” according to an update provided by the mayor’s office and the Office of Emergency Management. The city also said irritation to the eyes, nose and throat from debris is possible, and recommends anyone with those symptoms contact doctor.

Meanwhile, the city is still keeping people out of the “hot zone” in Flatiron.

While the area continues to be cleaned up, the hot zone boundaries include:

  • Fifth Avenue from 19th Street to 22nd Street (midway down the block on 19th Street and most of 20th and 21st streets on the west side).
  • The entire block on East 20th and 21st Streets and midway down the block on East 19th Street.

Neighborhood residents whose building have been evacuated (49 buildings in total) are still displaced. Forty-four buildings had their facades visually expected. However, none were cleared for residents to return home as of Friday at 5 p.m. as testing for asbestos continues. At this time, the city doesn’t have a number as to how many buildings have been contaminated. Once a determination is made, the buildings’ facades will be washed. Con Ed has appointed outside vendors for this project.

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After asbestos confirmed, investigation continues in Flatiron

July19 Expolsion info at 22nd Con Ed

Con Ed employees accepting bagged clothing at 22nd Street and Broadway (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

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.

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Steam explosion in Flatiron shuts down nearby streets

By Sabina Mollot

Emergency responders are still trying to find out the cause behind an early morning explosion in the heart of the Flatiron District. The blast occurred at 6:40 a.m. on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, sending a massive gray cloud shooting dozens of feet into the air and causing traffic shutdowns from 19th to 23rd Streets from Broadway to Sixth Avenue.

Eleven buildings were evacuated and surrounding streets were off limits to residents and workers until police began opening some streets at around 8:40 a.m., and office buildings began letting employees back inside. Town & Village’s block on West 22nd Street was one of those affected.

Town & Village driver Ray Pimentel was in his truck with stacks of this newspaper on his way to the office when he heard the massive “Boom!” nearby. Pimentel said had he not been caught at a red light on Sixth Avenue, “I would have been right in the hole in front of Chase Bank (on Fifth Avenue). I’m alive because of five seconds.”

He stopped his truck in the middle of Fifth Avenue and waited there for the Fire Department, which he said arrived in about seven minutes. Oddly, the blast didn’t smell too strong at that time.

“It was like cooking gas, you know like when you’re doing a barbecue, clean, not too bad,” he recalled.

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Garodnick’s water tower legislation would make building inspection results clear to all

Council Member Dan Garodnick said he was motivated by building owners ignoring the law he got passed calling for annual inspections.

By Sabina Mollot

Last Tuesday, the City Council voted to make the results of buildings’ water tank inspections more readily accessible after many years of those records being kept private.

The bill was sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who, in 2006, authored another piece of legislation that required annual inspections of water tanks. The bill also required landlords to make the results of those inspections available to the city upon request for the next five years. It was signed into law in 2009.

Under the new legislation however, the results of the inspections would have to be submitted to the Department of Health and entered into a searchable, publicly available online database on the DOH’s website. The data would also be submitted annually to the City Council.

Garodnick said the issue was first flagged to him by then-Assembly Member Steven Sanders, who left office in 2006.

“Back then members of the public were barred from seeing the results, even if they had a subpoena,” said Garodnick. “Those reports should not be treated like state secrets.”

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Advocates call for transparency on MSBI downsizing

Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Non-profit organizations and healthcare advocates are urging the community to demand transparency when it comes to the planned downsizing of Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

The subject was discussed at a meeting held by the Lower Manhattan chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network, a coalition of progressive activist groups, at the property service workers’ union 32BJ SEIU’s headquarters on West 18th Street last Thursday.

Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, moderated the meeting, which was attended by over 100 people. He encouraged the public to contact the Department of Health about the project and demand a community needs study, which the hospital system has said it will not be doing.

Arthur Schwartz, the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village, said that residents should also demand an environmental impact study and encouraged the neighborhood to resist zoning changes for the areas where current Beth Israel buildings will be sold, to prevent developers from building luxury high-rises.

“At St. Vincent’s, we lost because they went into bankruptcy but Mount Sinai doesn’t want to take Beth Israel into bankruptcy,” Schwartz said, referring to the closure of St. Vincent’s in Greenwich Village in 2010. “The state has power here and we have to demand transparency during this process. It’s basically (Mount Sinai’s) own plan and not based at all on input from elected officials or the community.”

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5 Stuy Café closed after health inspection

Dec1 5 Stuy Cafe.jpg

5 Stuy Café, pictured over the summer, requested a reopening inspection on Monday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

UPDATE: The cafe is expected to reopen Thursday morning, according to Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk. Hayduk said in an email to residents on Wednesday evening that the cafe was reinspected earlier in the day.

By Sabina Mollot

5 Stuy Café, which opened in Stuyvesant Town last summer, has been closed since Saturday afternoon, following an inspection by the Department of Health.

The café, despite recently scoring an A by the city, managed to rack up 50 violation points from eight violations. They included infractions such as food items being held above the allowed temperature of 41 degrees to having foods that were from “unapproved or unknown source or home canned” to “inadequate personal cleanliness due to an outer garment being soiled with a possible contaminant,” according to details from the inspection. Six of the reported violations were deemed critical.

Others included hot food items not held at or above 140 degrees, a food protection certificate not held by the supervisor of food operations and proper sanitation not provided for utensil ware washing operation.

The department notes on its website that the inspections scores may not be final, since restaurant owners are entitled to challenge them.

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Dealing with bed bugs: Do DIY treatments work?

Pest control pro says no, city says call landlord

Aug20 Bedbugs

Bed bugs

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, Town & Village received a letter from a resident of the East Village who had dealt with a bed bug problem in her home and said she had some luck getting rid of the bugs using a variety of home remedies.

The woman, who didn’t want her name published, wrote:

“I had a bedbug situation and researched everything to get rid of them. I did get rid of them and here’s the way I did it. Food grade diatomaceous earth is the answer.”

She then included a link to an online pest control product store called Do My Own Pest Control, which has a page of information on diatomaceous earth, as well as tips for treating an infestation.

“Also very effective,” the author of the letter added, “is spraying tea tree oil on your mattress and covers and also lavender oil sprayed around will also repel these ugly bugs.”

In response to her suggestions, T&V reached out to get opinions on whether or not do-it-yourself bed bug elimination, in particular through the products suggested above, is at least worth a shot.

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