Flushing homes destroyed in blast to be repaired: City

The area in front of a Flushing home wrecked by a propane tank explosion is strewn with the refuse of the severely damaged building. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

Nearly two months after a massive blast tore through the three-story brick home at 32-35 Leavitt St. in Flushing and injured two occupants, the gutted house still sits empty as do the attached units on either side, but the city said the properties will be rebuilt.

Broken glass, charred pieces of wood, a ruined mattress and other miscellaneous trash are strewn in front of 32-35 Leavitt, mostly obscured from the view of passers-by by a series of tall wooden panels erected along the sidewalk with a vacate notice pasted to the front and another posted next door at 32-33 Leavitt.

The gaping hole and crumbled facade left by the Oct. 26 blast, which the Fire Department said was caused by a man who was bleeding a 20-pound propane tank in the rear doorway of his first-floor apartmentwhen the gas hit an ignition source of some kind, has been covered with a makeshift wooden frame draped with blue tarp plastic.

The back of 32-35 Leavitt, which was obliterated in the explosion, also has been covered by a tarp and the large back windows of 32-33 Leavitt St., which were blown out, have been boarded up.

“They are going to repair the building,” Ryan Fitzgibbon, a DOB spokeswoman, said, referring in particular to the status of 32-35 Leavitt. She did not have further information on the two attached units, but said none of the buildings will be knocked down. “Right now the building owner’s engineer is assessing the building to see what needs to be done. He’ll create plans, submit them to the DOB, and we’ll work with them to get them approved, make sure everything’s in compliance and if it is we’ll approve them.”

Once the work is complete, the city will inspect the property and if it is approved, will allow tenants once again. The DOB will then lift the vacate order.

The explosion, which city Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Edward Kilduff said was the first of its kind he has dealt with, burned David Chin, 61, of 32-35 Leavitt St., on his face and arms. He was treated at the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell.

Chin’s wife, whose name could not be determined, was also injured in the blast. Firefighters found her buried under debris on the first floor of the home upon arriving at the scene, and after unearthing her took her to a hospital in stable condition with only “bumps and bruises,” according to Kilduff.

A total of 21 residents of the three homes — two families of eight and one family of five — were registered at the scene with the American Red Cross for disaster relief services, Red Cross Manhattan Disaster Action Team Captain Rebecca Callahan said Oct. 27. They were provided with hotels to stay in or went to live with family while they find new housing, she said. None of the residents will be allowed to move back in until the vacate orders are lifted.

“Initially both families were provided with short-term housing, and one of them was given a referral for long-term housing,” Red Cross spokeswoman Marianne Darlak said Monday. “The family that did receive long-term housing also received emergency financial assistance to pay for their basic necessities.”

The Red Cross had no further information about what has happened to the families displaced by the fire since then.

A resident of 32-31 Leavitt St., who answered the door there Monday night, said the occupants of the three affected homes “hadn’t been back at all.” She added that the city had not done much to clean up the aftermath of the blast at her neighbors’ homes.

“They just knocked down the bricks off the front, not really much else,” she said, pointing toward the blue tarp out front. “It’s been like that for a while.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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