Wall Street Journal:
City inspections of more than 50 buildings in the East Village following the fatal March 26 explosion and fire at 121 Second Ave. have turned up violations related to gas lines, fire safety and illegal construction, city records show.
The blast, which leveled three buildings and killed two people, is being treated as a case of suspected gas diversion, officials have said. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is investigating to determine if any criminal charges are warranted.
Two weeks after the blast, area residents remain concerned that problems that bedeviled 121 Second Ave. leading up to the explosion—a record of unlicensed construction work and building and housing violations—could be mirrored in their own buildings, some of which have records of complaints and violations going back years.
At one building across the street from the blast, gas has been shut off after inspections revealed construction without a permit and potentially illegal gas siphoning, records and interviews show. At another, Department of Buildings records show a violation for an improperly placed gas meter and new complaints alleging illegal boiler work, among other concerns.
Since March 26, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has issued violations at a number of buildings on the block, ranging from faulty locks, doors, handrails and windows to blocked fire escapes, lack of gas and failure to register as a multiple family dwelling with the department. One building was cited by the department for illegal use of the cellar as residential space, records show.
Recent complaints to the Department of Buildings for buildings on the block show concerns about unlicensed construction, fire hazards, and illegal conversion of space for bedrooms.