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Report Raised Red Flags About Infrastructure Before Collapse

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Emergency personnel carry people away from the site of a 5-alarm fire in the Bronx after two buildings exploded in East Harlem on March 12, 2014. Emergency personnel carry people away from the site of a 5-alarm fire in the Bronx after two buildings exploded in East Harlem on March 12, 2014. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

As officials investigate whether a gas leak caused the fiery explosion in Harlem Wednesday, a new report raises concerns about the city's aging infrastructure.

The explosion and collapse of the two buildings came just one day after a report from the Center for an Urban Future found many items such as water mains, subways, roads and public buildings, in need of serious repair.

Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the center said it's rare that aging infrastructure leads to disaster on this scale but some parts of the city's gas system aren't in good shape.

"There's a ton of cast iron gas mains all over the city, and they're not leading to these kind of disasters every day or every week" he said, "But there are a lot of leaks."

The report found that more than half of the city's gas lines are made up of cast iron or unprotected steel—the most leak-prone material. At a replacement cost of $2 million to $8 million per mile and more than a thousand miles under ConEd's portfolio, replacing the old pipes would be very expensive.

"It's probably not realistic to expect all that to be done," said Bowles, "but we do think there could be an acceleration of the replacement of these gas mains."

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Comments [2]

HPD needs to be overhauled from Harlem

Comments above are accurate. I live in a Harlem built HPD building. Our Developer BFC has left our building with millions of dollars of repairs. Community Board 10 is a failure and local elected officials don't respond at all to these conditions. Good luck trying to reach Senator Perkins office and his chief of staff at many calls and emails doesn't respond. Then you have Council Member Dickens who has no understanding of coop & condo ownership problems and new building construction problems when she can't even taken care of her own buildings that she owns.

Mar. 14 2014 11:57 AM
I live in a leaky HPD Building from NYC

Many red flags....Buildings Dept. doesn't inspect buildings properly. My experience has been since purchasing my unit. Developer self certifies and there is nobody looking at the building from the top to the bottom. Developer who got ton of HUD $, HPD $, donated to the elected officials in the neighborhood, $ #1 donor the REBNY and sits on their board makes a nice website and says they built affordable housing. Well, well, your roof leaks, you got mold, the building has millions of dollars of construction defect repairs and so what do you do? Developer blames it on the roofer, roofer says he did by city spec and HPD ignores all letters. By the time you have navigated this all the warrantees no longer exist. So, again, what do you do? You reach out to your elected officials, public advocates office (yup deblasio) and they don't respond because staff is not familiar with coop or condo ownership. Coop Board is a bunch of volunteers and this is way over there heads navigating city bureaucracy. HPD goes thru every two years a new commissioner and it's the same old same old. Scaffolding all around the boros and developers are not responsible since there are no lemon laws. All could of been prevented with good oversight by the Buildings Dept.

Mar. 13 2014 12:46 PM

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