Con Ed is probably not at fault in the East Village disaster

Speaking of Con Ed and having read most of the stories about the East Village explosion, I pretty well expected this article: Landlord’s Lawyer Blames Con Ed in East Village Explosion – It begins:

A lawyer for the owner of two of the buildings in Manhattan’s East Village that were destroyed by a deadly explosion last week tried to deflect blame away from the landlord on Wednesday and toward Consolidated Edison, the utility company that provided gas to the buildings.

The lawyer, Thomas M. Curtis, provided the first response on behalf of the landlord, Maria Hrynenko, since an explosion and fire reduced three buildings to rubble on March 26 and left two men dead. In a brief defense of Ms. Hrynenko during a phone interview, Mr. Curtis portrayed her as a caring landlord who “would not harm anybody intentionally.”

Mr. Curtis conceded that Ms. Hrynenko had received a warning of a possible gas leak from the manager of Sushi Park, a restaurant on the ground floor of 121 Second Avenue, one of the buildings that was destroyed. Rather than calling the utility company, Con Edison, or dialing 911, Ms. Hrynenko sent her son Michael and a contractor to check out the odor, Mr. Curtis said. Both men were injured in the blast.

Of course Hrynenko–who, apparently, was in some way involved in having a restaurant gas line illegally tapped in order to provide gas to her tenants–must now find someone else to blame. Her lawyer’s statement, as I read it, along with reading the rest of the information the Times has provided, is a not particularly persuasive diversion. Especially when he had to concede that Hrynenko had a warning of a gas leak but did not immediately call Con Ed.

A plumbing contractor has been mentioned as possibly at fault but Con Ed has the deep pockets. Thus, Curtis’s defensive statement.

What I predict will happen here–and I’ll keep us up to date as to the accuracy of my prediction–is:

  • a criminal indictment naming the landlady, whichever of her family was involved and at least one plumbing contractor.
  • Hrynenko (who, by the way, did not live in either building) will fling out a lawsuit naming the plumbing contractor, Con Ed and NYC’s Department of Buildings.
  • The DOB and Con Ed will defend themselves and might, if they can provide ample records that they did their jobs scrupulously and within the laws, get the lawsuit against them dismissed.
  • The tenants, including the sushi restaurant owner, will sue Hrynenko and anybody else their lawyers suggest they sue.
  • The families of the two young men who were killed will most certainly sue, and should.

This is going to be a mess that one or more judges will have to untangle.

UPDATE 4/8/2015. Rumor has it (“rumor”, that is, from the New York Post–the credibility of which is so bad I can only call it a rumor) that a plumbing contractor has told investigators that the landlord’s son told him to tap the gas line with an unauthorized and dangerous pipe. So my predictions above may be solidifying into fact (although using the word “fact” with anything to do with the Post makes me and my fingers really queasy).


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