NYC, Con Ed Blamed for 2nd Ave Building Fires

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Dozens of New Yorkers displaced by last year’s building explosion on Second Avenue filed a nearly $19 million lawsuit that blames the city and Con Edison for not cracking down on the illegal gas hook-up.
     The March 26, 2015, explosion at 121 Second Ave. killed two and injured many more. An ensuing three-alarm fire in the tony section of Manhattan’s East Village consumed the buildings on either side of 121, and at least two other buildings nearby had to be demolished.
     Drea DeMatteo, who lived in Apt 2 of 123 Second Ave., filed suit Tuesday with 37 others in Manhattan Supreme Court.
     Their blockbuster 356-page complaint blames the explosion on the city and Con Ed, saying workers smelled gas but did nothing about it, despite knowing the dangers.
     “In their construction … defendants illegally placed certain gas hook-ups and attachments to the gas mains and lines at the premises,” according to the complaint.
     Likewise, they “failed to properly cap the gas lines and mains, [and] allowed gas to escape while working at the premises,” the complaint continues.
     Residents say Con Ed also failed to get the proper permits for gas-related construction on the site, allowed gas to leak, and never told anyone when workers reported smelling leaking gas.
     During the summer prior to the explosion, according to the complaint, a Con Edison worker noticed a “dangerous and unlawful situation” at the building, but never reported it.
     In addition to losing their belongings, the plaintiffs say they were rendered temporarily homeless.
     They say the city was “reckless, careless and negligent in failing to properly maintain the utility infrastructure [and] gas delivery instrumentalies,” and was fully cognizant of the “red flags” before the blast.
     Neither the city nor Con Ed had much to say about the civil complaint.
     “We will be responding in court,” Con Ed spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said Wednesday.
     The defendants also both indicated that they had yet to see the complaint.
     “The suit will be reviewed once we’re served,” said Nick Paolucci, a spokesman with the New York City Law Department.
     Federal prosecutors indicted the owners of 121, which housed Sushi Park, over the incident in February. Maria and Michael Hrynenko now face criminal charges of manslaughter, assault, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.
     Their businesses, MAH Realty LLC and Kiev Realty, also sued their insurer, Public Service Insurance Co., in Rockland County Supreme Court last May.
     MAH, Kiev and the Hryenkos also appear as defendants alongside the city and Con Ed in the suit by residents.
     Other defendants include Neighborhood Construction Corp.; Dilber Kukic; Beta Plumbing and Heating Corp.; Athassios “Jerry” Ionnidis; Andrew Trombettas; SK Piping & Heating Corp.; Stavros Kalogeropoulos; Sushi Park Inc.; and Hyeonil Kim.
     Pommes Frites, a beloved eatery at 125 Second Ave. that had collapsed from the flames, reopened just last month on MacDougal Street.
     It is not a party to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Scott Agulnick with Greenblatt and Agulnick of Great Neck, and Mark Friedman with Wilofskky, Friedman & Cummins.

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