Monday, March 24, 2014

Gas Pipes, Water Rates and Con Ed Increases, INFRASTRUCTURE 776

Preventing Gas Explosions 

One Year After East Village Gas Explosion 5 Facing Criminal Charges
East Village Marks One Year Since Deadly Explosion Saturday (NY1) Saturday marks one year since the East Village gas explosion that killed two people and leveled three buildings on 2nd Avenue. Ceremonies are being held in the neighborhood Saturday to commemorate the blast's victims, Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locon Yac. The explosion displaced a number of people, including Mildred Guy, who had lived in a seven-room, rent-regulated apartment in one of the destroyed buildings for nearly 50 years. She lost everything in the explosion. And — one year later — she still has a hard time coming to the site. "It sort of came upon me," Guy said. "I was dreading this anniversary, this year. I didn't want to be around. It happend. I'm in a happy place, a good place. I'm going forward." Guy now lives a few blocks away, in a studio apartment. She was able to rebuild her life after raising nearly $40,000 on a crowdfunding website. Five people are facing criminal charges in connection with the explosion.

Electric and Gas Bills Going Up Will Drive Out More Middle Class From NYC 
New Yorkers to see higher electric, gas bills under newCon Ed rate plan (NYDN) Under the plan, the typical monthly electric bill will increase 2.3% in 2017, and 2.4% each of the next two years, according to the PSC. The increases are retroactive to January 1.  Gas customers will see monthly bill increases of 1.6% in 2017, 5% in 2018 and 3.2% in 2019. * Why would an obscure State Senate race west of Albany affect rents in NYC? @ProPublica  follow the money.  While soaring rents seem like an inevitable part of living in New York City, State Senators who live out in the country, miles away from the city, also have an effect on the rents tenants pay in the five boroughs — which may explain why developers regularly contribute to those legislators' campaigns.   A recent investigation by ProPublica and The Real Deal that looked at the millions of dollars New York City developers give to upstate candidates and why.  "We found that pro-tenant bills did not get to see the light of day in the State Senate while lawmakers who took real estate money were quick to [block] reform," Cezary Podkul, one the reporters on the story, told WNYC's Richard Hake.

One Year After East Village Gas Explosion 5 Facing Criminal Charges
East Village Marks One Year Since Deadly Explosion Saturday (NY1) Saturday marks one year since the East Village gas explosion that killed two people and leveled three buildings on 2nd Avenue. Ceremonies are being held in the neighborhood Saturday to commemorate the blast's victims, Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locon Yac. The explosion displaced a number of people, including Mildred Guy, who had lived in a seven-room, rent-regulated apartment in one of the destroyed buildings for nearly 50 years. She lost everything in the explosion. And — one year later — she still has a hard time coming to the site. "It sort of came upon me," Guy said. "I was dreading this anniversary, this year. I didn't want to be around. It happend. I'm in a happy place, a good place. I'm going forward." Guy now lives a few blocks away, in a studio apartment. She was able to rebuild her life after raising nearly $40,000 on a crowdfunding website. Five people are facing criminal charges in connection with the explosion.

5 Arrested for Fatal East Village Building Explosion
5 arrested in fatal East Village building explosion (NYP) Five people were arrested Thursday morning on charges including manslaughter and negligent homicide in connection with the East Village blast that destroyed three buildings and killed two peoplenearly a year ago. The five suspects — three contractors and two building owners — were taken into police custody in connection with the March 26, 2015, blast and fire at 121 Second Ave., between East Seventh Street and St. Marks Place. Landlord Maria Hrynenko, her son, Michael Jr., Bronx contractor Dilber Kukic and plumber Jerry Ioannidis were all charged with second-degree manslaughter, negligent homicide, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. Ioannidis and licensed plumber Andrew Trombettas — who last year got a permit to do gas-line work on the building — were charged with offering a false * 4 Indicted For Manslaughter in East Village Explosion That Killed 2 via @Dnainfo * 5 Arrested in Connection With East Village Gas Explosion (NYT) Four of those arrested were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the blast on Second Avenue last year that killed two men and reduced three buildings to rubble. * City Steps Up Gas Line Inspections After Fatal Blast in East Village (NYT) A city department conducted 343 inspections of gas plumbing last year, five times as many as in 2014, and has hired additional inspectors in the past year

After Manhattan Explosion, Family’s Real Estate Business Faces Scrutiny (NYT) Building maintenance by the Hrynenko family, which owns several properties in the East Village, is at the center of the investigation into the gas explosion at 121 Second Avenue that killed two men and leveled three buildings.

Feds Con Ed Must Make Gas Lines Safer

 In the wake of the 2014 gas explosion in East Harlem, federal officials told New York City, state regulators and Con Edison that they must improve pipeline safety features by the end of September, Capital New Yorkreports: 

Where Did the City Highway Workers Go?   

After Death NYC Discovers Illegal Gas Hook-Up
New York City inspections of more than 50 buildings in the East Village following a fatal March 26 explosion and fire have turned up violations related to gas lines, fire safety and illegal construction, the Journal reports: * In Aftermath of East Village Blast, Business Owners Pledge to Rebuild (NYT) A dozen restaurants, clothing shops and other establishments were either damaged or left financially crippled in the aftermath of a gas explosion that leveled three buildings last month.*  

 Diner near NYC blast to be evicted after ‘illegally siphoning gas’(NYP)   Longtime East Village Ukrainian diner The Stage Restaurant will be evicted this month from its Second Avenue digs for illegally siphoning gas across the street from the site of the March 26 blast that killed two, according to court documents. The 35-year-old restaurant “illegally and dangerously altered the piping and gas lines in the building,” according to the eviction notice dated April 14. The notice also said the eatery “illegally and improperly” siphoned gas from Con Edison.

Media Coverage Forcing DA to Charge
Investigators eye murder raps for six suspects in East Village blast (NYP) Investigators are looking at potential murder charges in the East Village building blast that killed two people, law-enforcement sources told The Post on Tuesday. There are six prime suspects in the March 26 explosion and fire at 121 Second Ave. — including landlord Maria Hrynenko; her son, Michael Jr., who was injured in the blast; and Bronx contractor Dilber Kukic, who was also hurt and carried Michael to safety, the sources said. Also under investigation is an unidentified subcontractor and two workers, the sources said. * Funeral Masses Held for 2 Killed in East Village Explosion (NYT) * ‘IT'S HEARTBREAKING FOR EVERYBODY,’ More than 200 people, each carrying a red rose, attend funeral for 23-year-old East Village explosion victim Nicholas Figueroa (NYDN)

Plumber the Landlord Make Me Blow Up A Building?
Plumber says landlord’s son made him illegally tap gas line (NYP)  A plumber who worked at the East Village building where two people died in an explosion last month has admitted to illegally tapping into a gas line there — but said the landlord’s son ordered him to do it, The Post has learned. The unidentified tradesman confessed to rigging a gas-supply system for apartments at 121 Second Ave. but blamed it on his boss to “deflect” any fault from himself, law-enforcement sources said. Authorities haven’t decided whether to cut a deal with the worker in exchange for his testimony or use his statement against him, one source said. 


Shocking Something Wrong With the City's Inspection System

Saturday Update 
East Village Gas Explosion Reveals Problems in City’s Inspection System (NYT) Under the current system, Consolidated Edison is not required to immediately notify the city if its workers find a dangerous gas situation.

Friday Update
Con Ed flooded with reports of gas leaks since East Village blast (NYP)*  Reports of gas leaks have skyrocketed by 64 percent since a deadly gas explosion killed two people in the East Village a week ago. Con Edison received 1,787 calls to its emergency hotline in the six-day period after the explosion on March 26 — a spike from the 1,099 calls logged in the six days before the explosion.

Real Question Why Didn't the Manhattan DA GoAfter Those Who Tap Gas Lines 7 Months? 

Thursday Update 
East Village building owner could be charged with manslaughter(NYP) Authorities are building a criminal case against the owner of the East Village building that blew up last week and left two people dead when it collapsed, sources told The Post Wednesday. An investigation into possible illegal plumbing work to supply the apartments in 121 Second Ave. with gas from a building next door has expanded to include landlord Maria Hrynenko, law-enforcement sources said.
More than seven months before an explosion and fire destroyed three buildings in the East Village on Thursday, utility workers discovered that the gas line to a restaurant in one of them had been tapped in a dangerous way, Consolidated Edison and the restaurant’s owner said.* CRIMINAL MATTER: City probing whether East Village building owner illegally tapped into gas main as distraught family mourns Nicholas Figueroa (NYDN) * The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is investigating the fatal explosion in New York City’s East Village last week, signaling the possibility of criminal charges in connection with the blast, the Journal reports * Manhattan District Attorney Investigating Fatal East Village Gas Explosion: Officials(WSJ)*  Asked about the D.A.’s involvement, the mayor wouldonly say: “I think it speaks for itself.” Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials said they were operating under the “strong assumption” the explosion was caused by natural gas, and the mayor said it was possible a gas line had been “inappropriately accessed internally by people in the building.”  * City launches criminal probe of fatal E. Village gasexplosion, finds bags of shredded documents at landlord's home (NYDN)* City serves stop work order on Icon Realty-owned building for installing gas pipe without permit across from deadly 2nd Avenue blast zone (EV Grieve) Wednesday Update City bill would toughen testing for plumbers working on gas lines (NYP) * East Village Explosion Might Have Followed Attempt to Hide Gas Siphoning (NYT) The unproven theory is that siphoning equipment was dismantled or hidden when inspectors visited on Thursday, and that an attempt to resume the tapping led to the fatal explosion.* Evidence of a tampered gas line was found in NY buildingshortly before explosion, source says (Newsday) * The building thatexploded in the East Village previously had afire caused by faulty wiring (DNAINFO)

City's Water Filtration Plant Costs Triples
Bronx water filtration plant costs at new high: report(NYDN)When the federally-mandated plan was finalized, in 2004, the cost was pegged at just over $1 billion. The last estimate, in 2011, put the cost at $3.5 billion.

Ravitch: Spend Corporate Settlement On Infrastructure   

Ravitch to the rescue(NYP)The former lieutenant governor and MTA chairman is making a compelling argument Gov. Cuomo would do well to heed. Ravitch says the $5 billion-plus New York now has from ­corporate settlements should be spent exclusively on infrastructure. We’d go further: Use these billions to pay for the as-yet-unfunded Tappan Zee Bridge. In an interview on Albany TV, Ravitch called investment in infrastructure New York’s “greatest need.” Nothing else, he said, would “give us a shot at rebuilding our economy,” especially upstate. It’s also in keeping with standard principle that “recurring revenue should be used for recurring expenditures” while “one-shot revenue should be used for one-shot expenditures.” In New York City, he noted, it’s not only the rule, it’s the law — “and that’s the reason why New York City has never had a fiscal crisis since 1975 and never will.” We’d go further: Use these billions to pay for the as-yet-unfunded ­Tappan Zee Bridge.* Editorial: Gov. Cuomo must act to open Port Authority records — and the clock is ticking(NYDN) Secret empire no more  Gov. Cuomo must open act to open Port Authority records

* Drivers on the Tappan Zee Bridge and throughout the New York State Thruway Authority system won't pay higher tolls in 2015—at least that's the plan for now, the Journal News reported on Monday:
* The contractors building the new Tappan Zee Bridge are sending roughly $5 million worth of steel materials to Delaware for emergency repairs to the state’s crippled I-495 bridge, USA Today reports:
* Environmentalists are questioning Cuomo administration plans to help pay for a new Tappan Zee Bridge with $511 million in low-cost loans from a fund dedicated to sewage, drinking water and clean water projects:

* But the Poughkeepsie Journal reports that the loan will be used for environmental protection and restoration projects related to the bridge's construction, including protecting water quality and marine life in the Hudson River estuary:

BREAKING – “FDNY to increase response to reports of gas leaks,” by AP’s Jonathan Lemire: “The New York City Fire Department will now have a much greater role in responding to reports of possible gas leaks, according to an order made by Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to the March explosion that leveled two East Harlem buildings and killed eight people. The mandate to increase the oversight of the fire department -- with hopes of dramatically improving response times to reports of leaks -- is at the centerpiece of a report obtained by [AP] before its release on Wednesday. …
“‘Mayor de Blasio is committed to improving New York City's infrastructure,’ said City Hall spokesman Phil Walzak, ‘and making the critical investments and changes needed to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers, and maintain our city's competitive edge.’ Previously, residents who smelled gas were often told to call their gas utility or dial 311, the city's information hotline.”

* State legislators are tackling transportation and housing infrastructure this session, including reforming the Port Authority, spurring innovative projects and revitalizing upstate downtowns, City & State reports:
* VICE magazine takes a look at “Seaport City,” former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to build an embankment in lower Manhattan that would guard against rising sea levels while doubling as a real estate development:
* The delay in the opening of the No. 7 train’s new station on the far West Side of Manhattan can be traced to the failure of a custom-designed, Italian-made elevator, The New York Times reports:
* State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli approved a $4.7 million contract with Limnes Corp. of Whitestone to paint 13 bridges in Nassau and Suffolk counties after the state put an integrity monitor in place:

  * The Times calls on the federal government to institute stronger rules governing the combustible crude oil shipped through the state on railroad lines, citing the risk posed by older tank cars:


Regulator Wants to Know How Con Ed Is Handling an Increase in Reports of Gas Leaks

The complaints have risen since a deadly explosion in Harlem, and officials are asking what expenses the company is cutting to compensate.

* A Buffalo News three-part series takes an in-depth look at the potential for hydrofracking in New York’s Southern Tier region and explores the industry’s benefits and costs:
* The overhaul of New York’s energy grid may rely heavily on energy storage, including batteries that store excess power gathered from wind and sunlight to be used later at times of peak usage, Capital New York writes:
* Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Reforming Energy Vision” initiative would take deregulation a step further, make utilities the “traffic cops” and spur decentralized generation, City & State reports:

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is proposing legislation to require the state's electric and gas utilities to assess their systems' vulnerability to severe weather events. [Crain's New York Business]  

AG Eric Schneiderman will propose legislation requiring the state’s electric and gas utilities to prepare for climate change to prevent widespread power outages.

Rise in Calls to Con Ed Reporting Gas Odors(NYT)

* MTA CEO Tom Prendergast weighed in on the transit system’s next capital plan, saying that climate change and the shifting expectations of young riders need to be addressed, and suggested how to go about securing more funding for transportation investment:
* Forty Eight percent of New York state residents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes for better roads, bridges and other infrastructure according to a City & State Reports poll that will be released shortly:

 * De Blasio said at the reopening of an asphalt plant that he will go forward with repaving 1,000 lane miles of streets and repair more than 400,000 potholes, the Daily News reports: 
Smarter Electricity in New York(NYT)

The state proposal to decentralize the system to smaller stations that use solar or wind power could lead a national revolution.
* President Barack Obama, while pushing for federal transportation funds, touted the Tappan Zee Bridge project during a visit and announced plans to replicate the “fast track” process elsewhere, the Journal News reports:

* The New York City Independent Budget Office analyzed how rates are set for the city’s water and sewer system, including the impact of the annual rental payment the Water Board must pay the city:
* The state is proposing to turn its electric utilities into a new entity that would buy electricity from hundreds or thousands of small generators and set prices for the electricity and for costs of running the power grid, The New York Times reports:

* With last month’s acquisition of Direct Energy Business’ heating-oil holdings in New York City, former mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis has not only become one of the largest oil-heat industry players, but he also has become a darling of the green movement, Crain’s writes:

Toothless Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission, the statewide entity that oversees all gas utilities, levied just two fines for $2,000 in 2013, the lowest amount collected since 2001, Few Fines for Utilities(WSJ)

Despite slight improvements, the condition of New York’s highway system is still lagging behind nearly every other state, according to a soon-to-be-released report. (C&S)
* New York ranks near the bottom in return for spending on highways and bridges, according to a soon-to-be-released report from the Reason Foundation, although at No. 43, it is ranked slightly better than it was two years ago, City & State reports:

State announces ‘unprecedented’ reworking of New York utility grid(Capital)

U.S. to Store Gasoline for Crises in the Northeast(NYT)

Water Bill Increase Spin Not The Worst
The de Blasio administration is set to propose increasing New York City’s water and sewer rates by 3.35 percent—the lowest such increase since fiscal year 2006, the Journal reports:  * Even though NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the lowest water and sewer rate increase since 2006, Queens Councilman Rory Lancman still thinks he’s breaking a campaign promise. 

The Reforming Energy Vision will be rolled out and refined over the next year

Neighboring family to sue over Harlem gas blast(NYP)

Blast Survivor Thanks Her Rescuers(NYT)
Firefighters found Carmen Quiñones, who was critically injured in a gas explosion in East Harlem, on top of rubble while fires were still smoldering in the debris.

NYC Lawmaker Takes De Blasio To Task Over Slashed Road Repair Funds
* A study from the Regional Plan Association finds that sea levels will rise six inches by 2050, leaving 59 percent of the NYC Metro Area’s power generating capacity, 21 percent of its public housing units and 12 percent of its hospital beds in the floodplain:
* Investigations spawned by Gov. Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal are reverberating on Staten Island, causing concern that crucial Bayonne Bridge and Goethals Bridge projects could be delayed, the Staten Island Advance reports:

City tests for lead contamination near Harlem explosion site(Gas)

Tenants near Harlem gas explosion file suit against city(NYP)
NTSB Finds 'Small Gas Leaks' Below Pavement Near East Harlem Blast Tests on a cast-iron gas main running beneath the site of a deadly East Harlem explosion found “small gas leaks below the pavement."

More than 2,000 NY state bridges deficient: report(AMNY

Gas Explosion   8 Killed

The New York Times followed Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the wake of the East Harlem explosion: “‘It’s hard, it’s hard,’ she said, in a quiet voice. ‘It’s not like you want to blame anybody, but you have to say, ‘Look, if you smell something, you’ve got to report it.’’ ‘It’s a big city,’ she went on. ‘We can’t —’ She drove off, the sentence incomplete.”* de Blasio remembers victims of Harlem blast at memorial(NYP) * NYC’s first lady Chirlane McCray announces fundraiser for East Harlem explosion victims(WPIX)
: Police say no one else is missing in rubble of explosion, death toll stands at eight. (WNBC)

Fears in East Harlem of toxic air after blast(NYP)

East Harlem Explosion Smashed Routines(WSJ)

With Gas Explosion in Her District, City Council’s New Speaker Is at Center Stage(NYT)

Source tells DN "the explosion was the result of a water main collapsing onto a gas line under the street."(NYDN)
De Blasio Says He Has No Regrets About Agency Staffing After East Harlem Explosion (NYO)
Councilman Says Explosion Exposes ‘Dire Need’ for Infrastructure Improvements(NYO) Today’s building collapse in East Harlem reveals the New York City’s “dire need” for infrastructure improvements, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez declared this afternoon. * At Least 2 Killed in East Harlem Building Collapse(NYT) *

Jumaane Williams Hopes Mayor Appoints New Buildings Commissioner ASAP(NYO) * De Blasio, who has not yet named a permanent Department of Buildings commissioner, said that he has no regrets about staffing delays in the wake of the explosion, Politicker reports: * At Least 4 Killed as Gas Explosion Hits East Harlem(NYT)* BLAST RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT LEADERLESS BUILDING DEPT -- News’ Annie Karni: A permanent buildings commissioner is one of many high-profile vacancies de Blasio has yet to fill, ten weeks into his administration. The department is currently led by acting commissioner Thomas Fariello, who served as first deputy commissioner during the Bloomberg administration. De Blasio on Thursday brushed off questions about whether the slow pace of his appointments had any bearing in the city’s response to the explosion: “I think the bottom line is we have very professional, experienced people at each agency.” * For first disaster, de Blasio has Bloomberg veterans on hand - Newsday *De Blasio: We’ll talk about infrastructure later(Capital)
"Witnesses also told that they had complained about a gas smell in the area for months, but no one listened."

Council Speaker Mark-Viverito: Insurance broker sidewalk sign capitalizing on Harlem explosion "makes me sick"

New York's 100 Year Old Gas Pipes
Beneath Cities, a Decaying Tangle of Gas Pipes(NYT) Leaks in pipes transporting natural gas are startlingly common, federal records show, but replacing the network is a daunting task for New York City, which has one of the oldest systems in the country. Graphic: The Network of Pipes Under Manhattan’s Streets "It is a danger hidden beneath the streets of New York City, unseen and rarely noticed: 6,302 miles of pipes transporting natural gasLeaks, like the one that is believed to have led to the explosion that killed eight people in East Harlem this month, are startlingly common, numbering in the thousands every year, federal records show."* PSC has ordered faster repairs to NYC's "decaying tangle of gas pipes" -- but also has frozen ConEd rates.

Nobody Calls After Smelling Gas?
Tuesday Update
Memories Of ’87 Blast Jarred Loose By Explosion(NYT)
Con Ed being probed in Harlem gas blast(NYP) A Harlem woman has become the first to file suit against Con Edison and one of the property owners of the building involved in the East Harlem explosion, and a high school student has filed paper work that could lead to a suit against the city

Only man to call Con Ed before blast regrets delay(NYP) The only East Harlem resident to pick up a phone and warn Con Ed when he smelled a gas leak first noticed an odor the night before the deadly explosion — and is devastated that he waited too long to call. “I never thought it could end up like this,” said Corey Louire, 32, one of several area residents to admit smelling the leak but the only one who took action.* Video shows moment Harlem building exploded(NYP) * Amid Rubble, a Bloody Face Spied in Time(NYT)  Officers at the scene of the explosion in East Harlem saw a 15-year-old’s face and hand poking out of the debris. Moments after saving the boy, the rescuers were forced to retreat as the fire intensified. * Search for Bodies Yields to Hunt for a Cause of East Harlem Explosion(NYT) * ConEd Faced Scrutiny in 2009 Blast(WSJ) * The Day the Drills Paid Off(WSJ) Dr. Maurice Wright was certain Wednesday morning that the television footage of a building collapse he had just seen was from a tragedy unfolding in some other part of the world.* Basement could hold clues in deadly NYC blast(WSJ) * Bible survives Harlem building explosion(NYP)

A Bronx city councilman is pushing a resolution calling for a two-year moratorium on water rate increases after years of steep hikes, writes our Erin Durkin. “We have a runaway water bill situation on our hands,” said James Vacca, who is drafting the resolution and also sent a letter to the city Water Board demanding the two-year freeze. Water bills have shot up 78% since 2005. They went up 5.6% last year and 7% the year before that, after double-digit spikes from 2008 through 2010.

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