BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | In an eerie follow-up, a sidewalk scaffolding outside the scene of the fatal 2015 East Village gas explosion came crashing down to the ground Friday afternoon. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
A Fire Department spokesperson said a call came in at 4:12 p.m. reporting the accident.
When this paper called shortly before 5 p.m., the Fire spokesperson said the first responding unit was still on the scene, but was telling other emergency responders — including the Collapse Unit — to either “come in slow or turn around” and go back to their stationhouses.
Yvonne Collery, who lives at 125 Second Ave., said it was her understanding that the structure had been hit by a truck, causing it to fall.
“I heard the shed fall,” she said. “After going downstairs, I learned a box truck had been cut off by a car and tapped the corner of the shed. That is when it collapsed.”
In the March 2015 disaster, an illegal gas-siphoning system that had been rigged up in the basement at 121 Second Ave. caused a thunderous explosion that turned into a raging inferno. Two men were killed: Nicholas Figueroa, 23, a customer at a Japanese restaurant in No. 121, and Moises Locon, 27, a worker there. In the end, three adjacent buildings were destroyed: 119, 121 and 123 Second Aves.
A new residential building is now being constructed at 119 and 121 Second Ave. The design by Morris Adjmi Architects calls for a market-rate, seven-story apartment building, with 21 residences, plus ground-level storefronts, to replace two of the three historic tenement buildings destroyed by fire. The parcels were purchased in 2016 for a reported $9.15 million by the Nexus Building Development Group.
In the years following the devastating explosion, homeless “crusty travelers” have taken to camping out on the sidewalk outside the empty corner site in the warm weather. Things came to a head this past summer when local residents’ outrage over the crusties’ behavior — including public urination and allegedly menacing behavior — boiled over.
The New York Post ran a photo of one of the homeless youth intoxicated and lying on the sidewalk and urinating next to a free WiFi kiosk. Police cracked down by installing light towers, but eventually the weather turned cold and the crusties headed off to warmer climes.