Facing Possible Charges, Landlord Blames Con Ed for East Village Blast

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Building at 121 Second Avenue in East Village, near Seventh Street collapsed after it was rocked by a blast and a fierce fire that sent black smoke into the sky.(Photo By: Joe Marino/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Fire tears through 121 Second Avenue.Photo: Joe Marino/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Amid reports that Maria Hrynenko, the landlord of 121 Second Avenue may be charged with second-degree manslaughter and reckless endangerment, her lawyer claims Con Edison is to blame for the blast last week that leveled three buildings and left two people dead. In Hrynenko’s first public response to the disaster, attorney Thomas M. Curtis told the New York Times that she “would not harm anybody intentionally.” Con Edison discovered last summer that the building’s gas line had been tampered with, and the working theory is that last week’s explosion was caused by an attempt to reinstall the siphoning apparatus after a utility inspection. “Where was Con Ed before?” Curtis said. “I think Con Ed is really culpable here for not shutting off the gas. They could have shut off the main valve.”

Con Edison workers were inspecting plumbing work in the building shortly before the blast, and the utility said they actually did leave the main valve shut off. “Con Edison is working closely with law enforcement,” said spokesman Robert McGee. “Our inspectors left the main gas valve at 121 Second Avenue turned off and locked.”

Only the ground-floor restaurant Sushi Park was authorized to receive gas, and Curtis was not able to explain why tenants who lived in the apartments above said they had uninterrupted gas service. As for why Hrynenko took so long to comment on the explosion, he said she’s still upset that she sent her son to investigate reports of a gas leak rather than calling 911. He was inside the building when the blast occurred and had to be carried out by contractor Dilber Kukic. “She is in no position at this moment to physically handle the probing questions every reporter is going to ask her,” Curtis said. “She nearly lost her son, she was beside herself that she sent him in there.”