Mayor de Blasio tours Chelsea bombing area, residents show their resilience

Just days after a bomb exploded in Chelsea, injuring 29 people, Mayor Bill de Blasio meets with patrons at the Malibu Diner on W. 23rd St. on Sept. 20, 2016.
Just days after a bomb exploded in Chelsea, injuring 29 people, Mayor Bill de Blasio meets with patrons at the Malibu Diner on W. 23rd St. on Sept. 20, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Rich Barnes

Rattled but resilient, the people of Chelsea returned to stores, restaurants and other businesses across 23rd Street as the thoroughfare reopened Tuesday, just days after an explosion rocked the neighborhood.

Burton Schein, dining on a bowl of fruit at the Malibu Diner, said he was nearby when the bomb went off on Saturday, but resolved that it wouldn’t affect his daily life.

“I’m a New Yorker since birth. For me, it’s a terrible thing that happened, but I’m not in fear,” said Schein, 65. “I keep my eyes and ears open, but I do my thing.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon, meeting with residents of Visions at Selis Manor, an independent living facility for people who are blind or visually impaired, located just steps from the site of the explosion that injured 29 people.

The mayor then made his way between the booths at the crowded Malibu Diner, posing for photos and remarking it was a “typical day at the diner.”

De Blasio and Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito sat down with one couple, Chelsea residents Steve Rosenthal and Jennifer Gilson, chatting for about 15 minutes about everything from schools to their small business.

“It’s been stressful but we’re trying to move on with our lives,” Rosenthal said after the impromptu meeting. “There’s been a really fast response for us here.”

The visit came just one day after bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami was captured in Linden, New Jersey, after a shootout with police there. Rahami is suspected of the Chelsea blast as well as a pipe bomb explosion in Seaside Park, New Jersey, on Saturday morning, and the devices found on West 27th Street Saturday, and in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on Sunday night.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who joined the mayor and the commissioner on the neighborhood tour, commended the “terrific police and investigative work” after the weekend’s attacks.

“And it’s testament to the level of sophistication that our law enforcement today brings to investigations like this,” he said, adding: “Public awareness and public vigilance is critical to our homeland security, public safety efforts.”

Mark Bieri, who works at an artists supply store in Chelsea, was having lunch at the Garden of Eden supermarket on 23rd Street when he noticed a double-decker tourist bus drive down the block.

“I’m not surprised it’s been cleared up so quickly,” said Bieri, 46, who lives in Midwood, Brooklyn. “I think it’s good that they tried to deal with it as quickly as they did. It’s nice to see they’re on their job and the response is that swift.”

Across the block, people swept up glass from windows shattered by the force of the blast. Several remained boarded up, and the Orangetheory Fitness studio used tape to prevent their cracked windows from breaking further.

Dave Liao, 35, sipped coffee at a cafe steps away from where the blast occurred.

“It’s business as usual,” said Liao, who lives in Chinatown. “It sucks that anyone would want to do that. You can’t let them win, that’s why we are having coffee here.”

Liao’s friend, Michelle Lee, 35, moved to the city last year, but said she wouldn’t let this act of terrorism deter her.

“It’s crazy, but things happen all the time,” said Lee, a Murray Hill resident who moved there from Northern California. “You just roll with it. We just live in the era where you have to be aware all the time.”

(With Matt Chayes)