Yesterday marked the one year anniversary since tragedy struck East Harlem after a gas leak led to an explosion that saw to the destruction of two buildings, the injuring of 70 people, and the deaths of eight. And to pay tribute to those lost, the residents and those wishing to honor the lost took part in a march to show they are not forgotten and gathered at the site in a ceremony to remember them.
Around 9:30 a.m. on Park Avenue near 116th Street what started off as a typical Wednesday morning soon erupted into chaos. It was on March 12, 2014 when a natural gas leak exploded in the upper area of Manhattan recognized as Spanish Harlem or El Barrior.
At the time of the explosion a moment of silence was held to pay tribute to those lost to show that they have not been forgotten.
“The world has seen what New York is made of time and time again. And we will stand by—as is the New York way—we will stand by these families. We’ll make sure that they’re needs are answered and those we lost will always be in our thoughts and prayers,” said Mayor Bill De Blasio, who joined the neighborhood and families of those lost in the memorial.
“To this day I feel the same way, nothing changed,” said Carmen Pagan, who lost her son in the explosion.
Although the Mayor’s words may reign true, at least to those who are wishful thinking, there is a struggle still occurring for those who live in the neighborhood both with families who have lost someone and those who remain as they attempt to move on from the tragic event.
“We are hoping the city won’t forget there was a big tragedy here in East Harlem on March 12th of 2014. That eight people lost their lives in a way that nobody should lose their life,” said Liseth Perez-Almeida, who sadly lost her husband in the explosion.
A year ago, fingers were cast upon Con Edison and the faulty infrastructure of the building as being those at fault for the gas leak and its resulting implosion due to improper training of workers associated with Con Ed.
In July 2014, it was discovered that an estimated 301 workers had to be re-trained because they improperly connected plastic pipes that permitted natural gas to be carried into city buildings. However, an official for Con Ed insisted that the company was not at fault since it was not a workers’ error that caused the gas leak and the explosion.
“We are confident that these requalification lapses did not compromise the integrity of our gas system. All of the plastic gas piping joints and connections in our system are physically pressure tested at the time of installation to ensure pipe integrity,” said Con Edison in a statement back in the summer.
The company also added, “We are developing initiatives, such as more frequent leak detection surveys, to further assure the integrity of our gas-distribution system piping and are establishing additional initiatives to provide for timely requalification.”
According to a preliminary report that came out after the explosion, in the remains of the two buildings that had fallen it was discovered that there was small gas leaks in a more-than century-old cast iron pipe located beneath pavement.
Back in 2011, it was documented that an 8-inch plastic pipe had been installed to replace a section of the cast iron pipe.
In a statement on the anniversary of the tragedy in East Harlem, Con Ed said, “We remember today all of the people affected by last year’s East Harlem tragedy.
In-addition to their statement, Con Ed acknowledges they have increased the frequency of gas leak patrols and stress the importance that residents call company or 911 if they smell gas.
Yes, the community should become more active in trying to prevent disaster in their neighborhood. However, shouldn’t it be the role of both a company like Con Ed and the city itself to be more active and thorough when it comes to situation that may be potentially dangerous or harmful?
The last recorded time Con Ed or the city visited the area where the leak was discovered was back in 2011; two years before the tragedy had struck. Was it a lack of importance by the citizens who lived in the area or a lack of duty by both the city and Con Ed to make regular inspections into areas unreachable by average citizens?
Still, last year’s tragic event is one that will hopefully not occur again and may peace come to the families who have lost someone on that day.