<![CDATA[NBC New York - Local News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Sat, 28 Mar 2015 21:07:17 -0400 Sat, 28 Mar 2015 21:07:17 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Officials Eye Possible Gas-Line Tampering in Blast]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:48:20 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/east+village+fire+explosion.jpg

Emergency workers continued searching Saturday for at least two people still missing after an apparent gas line explosion leveled three Manhattan apartment buildings while investigators piece together what exactly caused the blast that injured 22.

Authorities are investigating whether the gas line in a basement below a sushi restaurant was rigged in a possible gas-theft scheme, causing the leak that may have set off Thursday's fiery blast that leveled three buildings in the East Village.

"There is a possibility here that the gas line was inappropriately accessed internally by people in the building," but officials need to get access to the wreckage to explore it further, Mayor de Blasio said during a press conference Friday. He wouldn't say more about why officials believe that's a possibility.

Sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York that in August inspectors found the gas line in the basement rigged with a rubber hose to circumvent the Con Edison gas meter. This could have saved money and perhaps allowed for gas to flow to some apartments that had not yet been cleared for service. Safety violations were registered and an immediate shut down was ordered until the problem was corrected, the sources said.

No one was charged with any wrongdoing at that time and the case was treated as a safety violation by inspectors, the sources said. Investigators now want to know if a similar gas-theft scheme was being employed again. The investigation is in its beginning stages and nothing has been ruled out, the sources said.

The contractors working on the Sushi Park restaurant did not have permits for gas work, the mayor said Friday.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office has joined the NYPD, fire marshals and building inspectors in the probe into the cause of the explosion that sparked a fire that could smolder for days in the rubble of three buildings that once occupied Second Avenue and E. 7th Street.

About 60 firefighters were still working to put out hot spots on Saturday, and rescue workers with K9 units were on the scene searching for the two missing people. Earlier, Con Ed shut off gas to 187 residential customers and 32 commercial customers in the area while the search and recovery work continued.

Residents of three nearby buildings were still barred from entering, but about 40 apartments in five other buildings were reopened to residents as of Saturday. Some 20 apartments in those buildings were to remain closed until damage could be repaired. Officers were escorting residents into buildings when possible to help them retrieve pets and personal belongings, officials said.

On the day of the explosion, inspectors with Con Ed had been to the East Village building to check on ongoing work to upgrade gas service. The utility said the work didn't pass inspection, so gas wasn't introduced to the line, and inspectors gave instructions and left at around 2:45 p.m. Inspectors didn't smell any gas, Con Ed said.

But at around 3 p.m., the sushi restaurant owner smelled gas and called the landlord, who then called a general contractor, Boyce said. No one called 911 or Con Ed, however, de Blasio said.

The contractor, Dilber Kukic, and the owner's son went into the basement and opened a door, and then the explosion happened, burning their faces, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

"The whole area was shaking," said Moishe Perl, who works next door. "We couldn't imagine what was going on."

The building had an existing gas line intended to serve the sushi restaurant; the work underway was to put in a bigger line to serve the entire building, Con Ed President Craig Ivey said. As for whether the apartments were getting gas from the existing line, "That's a great question," he said.

"We'll have to find out, through the investigation, what's going on there," he said.

Con Edison later added in a statement: "As we do in all cases when a customer is upgrading to a new gas service, we conducted careful inspections at 121 2nd Avenue. Our records show the work of the building's plumber failed two inspections, including the inspection our personnel conducted yesterday afternoon. At no time was use of the new service line authorized by Con Edison. That service was locked to ensure that it would not be used. The ground-floor restaurant was being served by its current, smaller gas service line."

Calls to the building owner were unanswered. The owner's son reached by phone in his hospital room declined to comment. The listed contractor did not return messages. A subcontractor hired to handle gas lines did not return calls for comment.

City records show the contractor, Dilber Kukic, got a permit last June for plumbing, flooring, removing partition walls and other work at the building.

Kukic had tried to help people escape the explosion and had been helpful to authorities, Boyce said.

The contractor -- who's facing unrelated charges of bribing an undercover investigator posing as a housing inspector -- was injured in the blast and declined through his lawyer to comment on the circumstances surrounding the explosion.

Kukic is a relatively minor player in a 50-person bribery case that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and other authorities unveiled last month. They said city inspectors, landlords and contractors formed a network of graft that exchanged $450,000 in payoffs to get safety violations dismissed, procure phony eviction orders and get fast, favorable and sometimes nonexistent inspections.

Kukic is accused of paying $600 in cash to try to get housing violations dismissed at two upper Manhattan properties he owned. He has pleaded not guilty.

Twenty-two people were injured in the blast, four critically, city officials said Friday. Among the injured were six firefighters. Patients with non-life threatening injuries were continuing to be treated and released from local hospitals.

]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Work to Pick Up Pieces After East Village Blast]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:56:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/467637062_FireNY.jpg

Some of them had only moments to get out. The residents of the area surrounding the East Village explosion that destroyed three buildings this week ran for their lives. Now they're working to pick up the pieces.

Chelsea Blampied, who lived in one of the leveled buildings, said she'd stopped home to get a work file from her third-floor apartment when she heard and felt the blast.

"I thought a plane crashed into my building. Glass was blown everywhere, and it was just so surreal," she said.

"I just heard a really loud boom," recounted neighbor Justine Miller. "I could feel it in my chest."

Neighbor Troy Hinson was walking to the sushi restaurant when it "literally blew up in front of my face," and said "it really felt like my internal organs were reverberating. It just feels like everything was shaking, including my teeth."

"You just don't know what hit you, it just feels like a sonic boom, there's no real other way to describe it," he said.

Blampied left behind all her belongings and ran through smoke and debris down the stairs to safety as her building began to crumble. She's now staying with friends and is grateful she made it out alive.

"It's so overwhelming. Everyone lost everything," she said.

Blampied was among more than 125 people displaced at least temporarily by the blast. Aside from the three buildings leveled by the explosion, eight more were ordered vacated. As of Saturday, five of those had been partially reopened, and NYPD officers were allowing some other residents to return briefly to their apartments to grab pets and personal items.

At the time of the explosion, Gregory Dohdanowycz was in his top-floor apartment in the building next to where the blast happened.

"I look out the window, and I see two buildings south of me, there's smoke rising from the windows and their roof windows," he said.

He only had time to grab his dog before running outside, and was overwhelmed by the horrific sights and sounds when he got outside.

Neighbor Miller said: "There was blood on the ground. There were people laying up against buildings and other people trying to help them."

Actress Drea de Matteo is among the residents who lost her home and belongings in the explosion. She took to Instagram Thursday to share two dramatic photos of firefighters battling smoke and flames. "A hole where my NYC home of the last 22 years once stood," she wrote in one caption. "RIP 123 2nd Avenue." The photos appeared to be taken from a rooftop across the street.

Naya Jones, who spent the night at the YMCA after being told to leave her building near the blast site, went to the Tompkins Square Library Friday, where the Red Cross and other relief groups were offering financial assistance, food, vouchers and advocacy help.

The Red Cross said it has helped more than 120 people since the blast and gave housing assistance to dozens. The Standard Hotel is giving anyone displaced by the blaze three free nights of lodging. Sprint has also donated 25 cellphones.

The ASPCA is also providing pet supplies for owners in the affected area.

"It's a small community," said Bohdanowycz. "I think everyone is trying to help out when something bad happens."

Hinson, who's lived in the neighborhood four years, said, "I love the sense of community, and everybody comes together and helps each other out and is here for each other."

Several long-standing businesses were also affected by the destruction. Pommes Frites, a favorite spot for fries, was destroyed by the blast, and the nearby Orpheum Theater had to cancel performances of the off-Broadway production of "Stomp."

Robert Seniuk, the chef at Stage restaurant across the street, is determined to get back to work.

"We open, we don't give up. This city is 24 hours," he said.

Nevertheless, the frightening explosion has taken a toll on the psyche of New Yorkers everywhere.

"Yesterday was a very scary day. Now all I can do is think about the people who lost their homes and people who've been living here for decades," said neighbor Adam Mashaal.

Hinson said he had stopped on the corner to say goodbye to his friend just before the sushi restaurant exploded.

"The fact that I was literally - if I didn't stop and talk to my friend, I would possibly be in that building," he said. "That's kind of what's messing me up. ... All these crazy thoughts are going through your head after this happens, like, why me? Why am I safe, why is something again happening to me? It's just crazy. I'm having just a hard time processing it."

Health officials say the air quality in the area has returned to normal levels and that short-term exposure to elevated particulate levels Thursday didn't pose a significant risk to the public. They say the smoke odor may linger, but isn't harmful. Still, those with respiratory or heart problems should remain extra vigilant.

The explosion came a week after the one-year anniversary of the East Harlem explosion that leveled two buildings and killed eight people. The blast also injured dozens of people and left many homeless for months.

Since the 2014 explosion, the FDNY has been given a much greater role in responding to reports of possible gas leaks and New Yorkers are now encouraged to call 911 about gas leaks and odors rather than 311.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero Firefighter in Explosion Video Speaks]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:29:55 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mike+shepherd+east+village+fdny+hero.jpg

Off-duty FDNY firefighter Mike Shepherd didn't need to be in uniform to be a hero in the aftermath of the fiery East Village building explosion Thursday that leveled three buildings, injured about two dozen people and left two people missing. 

The Squad 41 firefighter is the man seen in widely viewed videos of the scene climbing up a fire escape to check for any possibly trapped residents inside 121 Second Ave. after the blast Thursday afternoon.

"I heard a loud explosion and I look down the block and I just started running toward the corner," he told reporters at an FDNY briefing Friday.

He helped to direct a woman down from the second-floor apartment on the fire escape.

Then "I just climbed it, started searching my way up from the second floor. Opened the window and looked in and the floor was collapsed," said Shepherd. He continued up to the third floor.

He didn't come down until he'd gotten all the way up to the top floor, and the danger to himself became all too real.

"I could feel the heat and the smoke, and I said, 'I gotta get outta here now,'" he said. "And I looked and I could see 9-truck coming and 33-engine, so I said, 'Worst case scenario, they'll have to put the bucket up and grab me."

Witness Troy Hinson recorded Shepherd climbing up the fire escape and told NBC News the crowd below was terrified as they watched. 

"You're kind of in awe at what this guy's doing but you're also kind of holding your breath and you're like, I don't want to see this guy die in front of me, but that was definitely going through my mind," he said. 

"Some people just react a certain way, and he just instinctively reacted to climb up there, and that guy is truly the hero," said Hinson. 

Shepherd said he thought of his family, his wife, son daughters and granddaughter -- but the third-generation firefighter knew he couldn't walk away without helping.

"Maybe it's just in your blood," he said. "But being a New Yorker, you're always willing to go out and help somebody, you know."
 

]]>
<![CDATA[Blanket-Wrapped Body Found in Bronx House: Police]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 18:42:43 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/328me.jpg

The decomposing body of a 46-year-old woman was found wrapped in a blanket Saturday in a house in the Bronx, police said.

Police arrived at about 8:15 a.m. to find the body inside the house at 1209 Tinton Avenue in an area commonly known as Morrisania, investigators said. The woman, whose hands were bound, appears to have been dead for about a week, police said.

The woman, whose identity was not disclosed, was not a resident, but was visiting a male friend who lives in the apartment, police said. Investigators are questioning the man.

No other details were available. 

]]>
<![CDATA[7 Hurt, 3 Critically, in Brooklyn Blaze]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 18:48:28 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/032815bklynfire.jpg

A fast-moving blaze in a Brooklyn apartment injured seven people, leaving three in critical condition, fire officials said.

The blaze broke out at about 9:15 a.m. Saturday on Clarendon Road in East Flatbush. The victims, including at least one child, were taken to a hospital, according to the FDNY. One person was in serious condition and three others had minor injuries, officials said.

The flames started on the second floor, creating heavy smoke conditions for those above. One child and two adults were unconscious when firefighters pulled them from the smoke-filled third floor, a fire official said.

The blaze was brought under control by about 9:40 a.m.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

]]>
<![CDATA[Springtime Snow Flurries in Store for Tri-State]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 17:33:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/111515757.jpg

The calendar may say springtime, but the tri-state is getting a brief blast of winter weather this weekend. 

Light snow hit the region Saturday but was expected to come to an end by the evening, Storm Team 4 said. Cold air was expected to settle over the region Sunday morning, with lows expected in the mid or low 20s - about 10 to 15 degrees below normal for this time of year.

Temperatures Sunday were unlikely to climb much beyond 40 degrees, according to Storm Team 4.

By Monday things were expected to warm up somewhat, with an expected high of 55. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday could all see rain showers, with the possibility of snow on Tuesday. 

By Friday, temperatures could inch up all the way to 60 degrees.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Gas Leak Briefly Closes Brooklyn Bridge to Eastbound Traffic]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 13:57:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/032815leak.JPG

The Brooklyn Bridge was briefly closed down in one direction Saturday after a gas line was damaged by workers installing a sidewalk, officials said.

A contractor was installing the walkway when the gas pipe, which serves the federal courthouse at 225 Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, was struck, according to National Grid. The courthouse and a residential building were evacuated, and fire department units were sent to the scene, according to the FDNY.

A ramp from the FDR Drive to the bridge was closed, and the eastbound side of the Brooklyn Bridge was briefly blocked off before being reopened, officials said.

Gas service to the courthouse was expected to be restored by Saturday evening, according to National Grid.

]]>
<![CDATA[No Charges in NJ Festival Accident That Killed Tot]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 07:14:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/farm9.jpg

No criminal charges will be filed in a motor vehicle accident at a harvest festival that killed a two-year-old child last fall.

The Morris County prosecutor's office and Chester Township police made the announcement Friday.

The October 12 accident occurred at Alstede Farms in Chester. Investigators concluded that two vans were shuttling passengers from a parking lot at the festival to a nearby train station when one of the vans rolled into the one in front of it.

The girl, her mother and another woman were caught between the two vehicles. The women suffered injuries.

Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp said Friday that toxicology tests were conducted and no evidence of criminal conduct was found.



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Water Main Break Disrupts NJ Transit]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 23:21:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NJtransitgeneric.jpg

A water main break in Millburn, New Jersey has flooded streets and disrupted service on the New Jersey Transit.

Millburn Police said a 24-inch main burst at 100 Glen Ave. at about 10:15 p.m., causing major flooding near the New Jersey Transit train tracks.

 

Some nearby homes were evacuated, according to police. Some residents reported having no running water. 

Customers on the Morris and Essex train lines should expect delays Friday night.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Astronaut Twins Looking To Make History]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:48:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/astronaut+twins+experiment.jpg A West Orange High School graduate blasted off into space Friday afternoon. His twin brother, also an astronaut, stayed behind. But they are both part of the same experiment. Brian Thompson reports.]]> <![CDATA[Teacher Sexually Abused Students at Music School: Police]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 01:12:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/music+teacher+sex+abuse.jpg

A music teacher was arrested Thursday on Long Island for allegedly sexually abusing two female students during private lessons, police say.

Authorities say Kenton Burt, 62, abused the girls, between the ages of 9 and 14, at the Burt Music School located on Newbridge Road in Hicksville.

The alleged abuse happened between January 2012 and March 2015.

Burt, who is from Kent, Connecticut, was arrested at the music school. He is charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Anyone else who feels they may have been a victim is asked to call the Nassau County Police Department at 516-573-4022. 



Photo Credit: NCPD]]>
<![CDATA[5 Firefighters Injured in Upper East Side Blaze: FDNY]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:13:57 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/UES-Fire-NYC.jpg

Less than 24 hours after a massive fire caused by an explosion injured 19 in the East Village, five firefighters were injured battling a large blaze at an Upper East Side apartment building.

The fire started just after 1 a.m. Friday on the sixth floor of 343 East 66th Street, between First and Second Avenues, according to the FDNY.

Authorities say the injuries to firefighters were minor. No civilian injuries were reported.

The fire was under control shortly after 3:30 a.m.

A resident living in the building said that about 60 people lived in the six-story building. None were injured, as far as she knew.

Several residents living nearby captured images of the blaze on social media. 

 



Photo Credit: @filmyorkcity]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Dies After Being Stabbed in Long Island Parking Lot]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:42:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/police-tape-shutterstock_56280433141.jpg

Police on Long Island are investigating the fatal stabbing of a woman that happened in the middle of the afternoon in a Glen Cove parking lot.

Nassau County Homicide Capt. John Azzata says police are pursuing a possible domestic dispute angle. He told reporters Friday that it appeared the woman was not robbed.

Police identified the victim as 32-year-old Yanira Estella Canjura Martinez. She was found repeatedly stabbed at about 3:15 p.m. Thursday. She was declared dead less than an hour later at a nearby hospital.

Police say the single mother was walking to pick up her 5-year-old daughter from an undisclosed location at the time.

Azzata says police looked at video surveillance from the scene, but have not been able to identify a suspect.

Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS.

]]>
<![CDATA[Storm Team 4]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:04:29 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/StormTeam4_1B.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[Crime and Courts]]> Mon, 10 Sep 2012 11:40:24 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gavel.jpg

Photo Credit: Martin Poole /Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Surveillance Video Captures East Village Blast]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 18:09:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000006591700_1200x675_419265091602.jpg Surveillance video captures the explosion at 121 Second Ave. in the East Village Thursday. Courtesy Gem Spa.]]> <![CDATA[Possible Gas-Line Tampering Eyed in Blast: Sources]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 12:09:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/The_Last_View.jpg

Authorities are investigating whether the gas line in a basement below a sushi restaurant was rigged in a possible gas-theft scheme, causing the leak that may have set off Thursday's fiery explosion in the East Village. Two dozen people were injured and two still are missing after the blast that leveled three buildings.

"There is a possibility here that the gas line was inappropriately accessed internally by people in the building," but officials need to get access to the wreckage to explore it further, Mayor de Blasio said during a press conference Friday. He wouldn't say more about why officials believe that's a possibility.

Sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York that in August inspectors found the gas line in the basement rigged with a rubber hose to circumvent the Con Edison gas meter. This could have saved money and perhaps allowed for gas to flow to some apartments that had not yet been cleared for service. Safety violations were registered and an immediate shut down was ordered until the problem was corrected, the sources said.

No one was charged with any wrongdoing at that time and the case was treated as a safety violation by inspectors, the sources said.  Investigators now want to know if a similar gas-theft scheme was being employed again. The investigation is in its beginning stages and nothing has been ruled out, the sources said. 

The contractors working on the Sushi Park restaurant did not have permits for gas work, the mayor said Friday.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office has joined the NYPD, fire marshals and building inspectors in the probe into the cause of the explosion that sparked a fire that could smolder for days in the rubble of three buildings that once occupied Second Avenue and E. 7th Street.

Firefighters were still working to put out hot spots Friday, Chopper 4 video over the scene shows, and rescue workers with K9 units were on the scene searching for the two missing people. Con Ed has shut off gas to 187 residential customers and 32 commercial customers in the area as the FDNY continues its recovery work. 

Inspectors with Con Ed had been to the East Village building to check on ongoing work to upgrade gas service. The utility said the work didn't pass inspection, so gas wasn't introduced to the line, and inspectors gave instructions and left at around 2:45 p.m. Con Ed said inspectors didn't smell any gas.

But at around 3 p.m., the sushi restaurant owner smelled gas and called the landlord, who then called a general contractor, Boyce said. No one called 911 or Con Ed, however, de Blasio said.

The contractor, Dilber Kukic, and the owner's son went into the basement and opened a door, and then the explosion happened, burning their faces, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

"The whole area was shaking," said Moishe Perl, who works next door. "We couldn't imagine what was going on." 

The building had an existing gas line intended to serve the sushi restaurant; the work underway was to put in a bigger line to serve the entire building, Con Ed President Craig Ivey said. As for whether the apartments were getting gas from the existing line, "That's a great question," he said.

"We'll have to find out, through the investigation, what's going on there," he said.

Con Edison later added in a statement: "As we do in all cases when a customer is upgrading to a new gas service, we conducted careful inspections at 121 2nd Avenue. Our records show the work of the building's plumber failed two inspections, including the inspection our personnel conducted yesterday afternoon. At no time was use of the new service line authorized by Con Edison. That service was locked to ensure that it would not be used. The ground-floor restaurant was being served by its current, smaller gas service line."

Calls to the building owner were unanswered. The owner's son reached by phone in his hospital room declined to comment. The listed contractor did not return messages. A subcontractor hired to handle gas lines did not return calls for comment. 

City records show the contractor, Dilber Kukic, got a permit last June for plumbing, flooring, removing partition walls and other work at the building.

Kukic had tried to help people escape the explosion and had been helpful to authorities, Boyce said.

The contractor -- who's facing unrelated charges of bribing an undercover investigator posing as a housing inspector -- was injured in the blast declined through his lawyer to comment on the circumstances surrounding the explosion.

Kukic is a relatively minor player in a 50-person bribery case that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and other authorities unveiled last month. They said city inspectors, landlords and contractors formed a network of graft that exchanged $450,000 in payoffs to get safety violations dismissed, procure phony eviction orders and get fast, favorable and sometimes nonexistent inspections.

Kukic is accused of paying $600 in cash to try to get housing violations dismissed at two upper Manhattan properties he owned. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Twenty-two people were injured in the blast, four critically, city officials said Friday. Among the injured were six firefighters. Patients with non-life threatening injuries were continuing to be treated and released from local hospitals.

Meanwhile, businesses and residents who occupied the three buildings that were destroyed are trying to pick up the pieces. Dozens of people and businesses were displaced at least temporarily by the blast. Eleven buildings were evacuated following the explosion, though NYPD officers allowed some residents to return briefly to their apartments Friday to grab a few items. 

Chelsea Blampied, who lived in one of the leveled buildings, said she'd stopped home to get a work file from her third-floor apartment when she heard and felt the blast. 

"I thought a plane crashed into my building. Glass was blown everywhere, and it was just so surreal," she said. 

"I just heard a really loud boom," recounted neighbor Justine Miller. "I could feel it in my chest." 

Neighbor Troy Hinson was walking to the sushi restaurant when it "literally blew up in front of my face," and said "it really felt like my internal organs were reverberating. It just feels like everything was shaking, including my teeth."

"You just don't know what hit you, it just feels like a sonic boom, there's no real other way to describe it," he said. 

Blampied left behind all her belongings and ran through smoke and debris down the stairs to safety as her building began to crumble. She's now staying with friends and is grateful she made it out alive. 

"It's so overwhelming. Everyone lost everything," she said. 

Gregory Dohdanowycz was in his top-floor apartment in the building next to where the blast happened. 

"I look out the window, and I see two buildings south of me, there's smoke rising from the windows and their roof windows," he said.

He only had time to grab his dog before running outside, and was overwhelmed by the horrific sights and sounds when he got outside. 

Neighbor Miller said: "There was blood on the ground. There were people laying up against buildings and other people trying to help them."

Actress Drea de Matteo is among the residents who lost her home and belongings in the explosion. She took to Instagram Thursday to share two dramatic photos of firefighters battling smoke and flames. "A hole where my NYC home of the last 22 years once stood," she wrote in one caption. "RIP 123 2nd Avenue." The photos appeared to be taken from a rooftop across the street.

Naya Jones, who spent the night at the YMCA after being told to leave her building near the blast site, went to the Tompkins Square Library Friday, where the Red Cross and other relief groups were offering financial assistance, food, vouchers and advocacy help. 

The Red Cross said it has helped more than 80 people since the blast and gave housing assistance to 30. The Standard Hotel is giving anyone displaced by the blaze three free nights of lodging. Sprint has also donated 25 cellphones. 

The ASPCA is also providing pet supplies for owners in the affected area.

"It's a small community," said Bohdanowycz. "I think everyone is trying to help out when something bad happens." 

Hinson, who's lived in the neighborhood four years, said, "I love the sense of community, and everybody comes together and helps each other out and is here for each other." 

Several long-standing businesses were also affected by the destruction. Pommes Frites, a favorite spot for fries, was destroyed by the blast, and the nearby Orpheum Theater had to cancel performances of the off-Broadway production of "Stomp."

Robert Seniuk, the chef at Stage restaurant across the street, is determined to get back to work.

"We open, we don't give up. This city is 24 hours," he said. 

Nevertheless, the frightening explosion has taken a toll on the psyche of New Yorkers everywhere.

"Yesterday was a very scary day. Now all I can do is think about the people who lost their homes and people who've been living here for decades," said neighbor Adam Mashaal. 

Hinson said he had stopped on the corner to say goodbye to his friend just before the sushi restaurant exploded.

"The fact that I was literally -- if I didn't stop and talk to my friend, I would possibly be in that building," he said. "That's kind of what's messing me up... All these crazy thoughts are going through your head after this happens, like, why me? Why am I safe, why is something again happening to me? It's just crazy. I'm having just a hard time processing it." 

Health officials say the air quality in the area has returned to normal levels and that short-term exposure to elevated particulate levels Thursday didn't pose a significant risk to the public. They say the smoke odor may linger, but isn't harmful. Still, those with respiratory or heart problems should remain extra vigilant. 

The explosion comes a week after the one-year anniversary of the East Harlem explosion that leveled two buildings and killed eight people. The blast also injured dozens of people and left many homeless for months.

Since the 2014 explosion, the FDNY has been given a much greater role in responding to reports of possible gas leaks and New Yorkers are now encouraged to call 911 about gas leaks and odors rather than 311.



Photo Credit: @The_Last_View/Twitter ]]>
<![CDATA[Jason Alexander To Replace Larry David in “Fish in the Dark”]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:38:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/59683657.jpg

"Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander will return to Broadway after a 25 year absence -- and it’s thanks to the person who took him away from the stage in the first place.

Alexander will replace “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David in “Fish in the Dark” -- David’s sold-out comedy about two brothers struggling to accept the death of their father while arguing over who will take on the burden of caring for their widowed mother.

The play, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, was scheduled to end its limited run on June 7. It will now continue performances through June 19. Alexander makes his debut in the show on June 9.

"I left Broadway 25 years ago because Larry David co-created the show that would change my life and career,” Alexander said. “It is totally amazing that he also created the show that would bring me back to Broadway... It is quite simply more fun than any bald man should have."

David, who also created and starred in HBO’s hit comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” responded to the news with his signature self-deprecating wit. “I was thrilled when I heard [Alexander] was replacing me in ‘Fish in the Dark.’” he said. “Finally I can enjoy the show.”

“Fish in the Dark,” which features a 15-person cast that also includes Rita Wilson, Rosie Perez and Jayne Houdyshell, has been something of a Broadway blockbuster.

Despite mixed reviews from critics, the show has been playing to sold-out houses since beginning performances Feb. 2 -- a rare feat these days for any Broadway show. The top price for tickets according to numbers reported by the Broadway League? $497.

Alexander’s last Broadway appearance was 1990’s “Accomplice.” He made his Broadway debut in 1981, in the original cast of Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along.” In 1989, Alexander won a Tony for his role in “Jerome Robbins Broadway.”

For ticket information on “Fish in the Dark,” visit fishinthedark.com.



Photo Credit: Jason Merritt | Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Death of Eric Garner]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:48:57 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/eric+garner+death+inset.jpg

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Explosion Bystander: "Could Feel It in My Chest"]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:55:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000006593515_1200x675_419328067822.jpg A massive explosion sent people running in a panic on a busy 2nd Avenue in the East Village Thursday. Bystanders recount the impact that shook them to the core. Marc Santia reports.]]> <![CDATA[Autistic Boy Forced to Remove His Letter Jacket]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:40:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/LetterJacket.jpg A mother is outraged after her son's school forces him to remove a varsity letter jacket because special-needs athletes aren't allowed to wear the letters.]]> <![CDATA[How Did Gas Travel Before Explosion?]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:52:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/con+ed+lock+gas+main.jpg Amid questions surrounding the East Village explosion, Chris Glorioso spent time with a certified master plumber who showed us how natural gas makes it from the street to the gas meter connected to your home.]]> <![CDATA[Fire Island Landmark Destroyed in Blaze: Officials]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:21:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Fire-Island-Fire.jpg

Several buildings, including a well-known boardwalk landmark, were destroyed in a blaze on Fire Island early Friday, officials say.

The blaze broke out at Bayview and Holly walks in Cherry Grove at about 1:30 a.m., Suffolk County police say. When firefighters arrived, several buildings were engulfed, including the Grove Hotel.

"It's heartbreaking. It was a love, not just a hotel," said Frank Liguori, the owner of Grove Hotel, a 50-year fixture that was just preparing for a May 1 reopening.

Two other homes and the Holly House apartment complex were also destroyed. None of the structures or homes was occupied in the primarily summer beach community.

The blaze broke out in the apartment complex, officials say.

Iconic area nightclub Ice Palace was spared from the flames. Year-round resident Jeffrie McClean said he grabbed a firehose to help save it.

"That's the first place I worked back in 1982," he said. "It's the heart of the community." 

Cherry Grove Assistant Fire Chief Craig Williams says three firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.

Williams says dozens of firefighters from 22 departments responded to the blaze. Some were taken to the scene by the Sayville Ferry Service. 

The fire was under control by 4:30 a.m.

"There was significant damage done, of course. But it could have been much worse if not for the work of these incredible volunteers," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. 

Arson detectives were investigating the blaze, police say.

]]>
<![CDATA[Police Search for Missing East Harlem Boy, 11]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 05:04:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/treyvion+banks.jpg

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding a missing 11-year-old East Harlem boy.

Treyvion Banks was last seen at 3:30 p.m. Thursday heading towards the subway at East 110 Street and Lexington Avenue, police say.

He was wearing a white tank top, blue slacks and black sneakers. He is 5’9” and weighs 130 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 



Photo Credit: NYPD]]>
<![CDATA[Boy Allegedly Brings Gun to His Long Island Elementary School]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:55:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/police-tape-shutterstock_81281838.jpg

Police on Long Island are investigating after an 11-year-old boy allegedly brought a handgun to his elementary school Wednesday.

A fellow student at Tangier Elementary School in Mastic Beach told a teacher about the gun and police were called.

No students were threatened with the firearm.

The boy was charged with juvenile delinquency for bringing a weapon onto school grounds and was released into the custody of his parents.

The boy's father was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child.

The father and son will appear in court at a later date.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Man Fatally Shot in Queens: Police]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 06:00:07 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_police_tape_lights_generic1.jpg

Police say a man is dead after being shot in the abdomen Thursday in Queens.

Michael Jonathan, 33, was found just before 3 p.m. on the corner of Fonda Avenue and Mayville Street in St. Albans, according to police.

The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing. 

]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Chaos, Heroism in Blast Aftermath Minutes Before NYPD, FDNY Arrive]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:36:23 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/troy+hinson+witness+video.jpg Witness video captured the dramatic moments following an explosion at an East Village restaurant that caused a massive fire, injuring 19. Bystanders rush to the building to help the injured, and an off-duty firefighter helps direct a woman down a fire escape, then climbs up himself to check for any people inside before the building starts going up in flames. Courtesy Troy Hinson.]]> <![CDATA[2 Men Robbed Woman at Gunpoint, Stole Her Car: Police]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 01:51:57 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/east+new+york+apt+robbery.jpg

Police are looking for two men who they say followed a 26-year-old woman into her Brooklyn apartment building and robbed her at gunpoint.

The alleged robbery happened at 11 p.m. Saturday on Vandalia Street in East New York, police say.

As the woman was waiting for the elevator, police say the men, one of whom was armed with a gun, approached her and demanded her belongings.

She gave the suspects an iPhone 5, her keys, a necklace and earrings, and they fled, police say. When the suspects went outside, they used her keys to steal her 2006 Ford Escape.

The woman was uninjured.

Anyone with information on the suspects is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 



Photo Credit: NYPD]]>
<![CDATA[Man, 24, Fatally Shot in Head in East New York: Police]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 01:39:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/east+new+york+shooting2.jpg

Police say a man has died after being found with a gunshot wound to the head Thursday in Brooklyn.

Jonathan Thomas, 24, was found shot in the area of Shepherd Avenue and Glenmore Avenue in East New York at about 2 p.m.

He was taken to Brookdale Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

No arrests have been made. Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.



Photo Credit: NYPD]]>
<![CDATA[Investigation Begins in East Village Explosion]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:39:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/east+village+fire+explosion.jpg The investigation into the source of the East Village blast now centers on a contractor and a gas line. Chris Glorioso has more.]]> <![CDATA[Heroes Jump to Action After East Village Explosion]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:39:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TLMD-edificio-colapsa-explosion-East-Village-NY-12.JPG A blast in the East Village wasn't enough to scare some good Samaritans from coming to the aid of their fellow New Yorkers. Checkey Beckford has more.]]> <![CDATA[Man Tried to Lure Child Into Car in Bushwick: Police]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:06:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/brooklyn+child+luring.jpg

Police are looking for a man suspected of luring an 11-year-old girl in Bushwick.

The victim was walking near Manhattan Avenue and Moore Street on March 13 when the suspect pulled up in a silver SUV and waved at her to go toward him, police say.

The girl ignored the suspect and kept walking, but he parked his car, got out and began to follow her while continuing to wave at her to go toward him, according to police. The victim fled the scene and so did the suspect.

Police released surveillance photos of the suspect and his car, along with a sketch (above). Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.



Photo Credit: NYPD
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Man Who Beat Pregnant Woman Arrested: Police]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:23:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/darryl+gillyard.jpg

Police have arrested a man who they say held a door open for a woman and then attacked her when she didn't thank him.

Darryl Gillybrand, 32, was taken into custody Thursday at his Chelsea residence and charged with felony assault and criminal possession of a weapon, police say.

The attack happened March 5 shortly before noon at the Chelsea-Elliot Houses on West 26th Street.

Lakeeya Walker, who is eight weeks pregnant, says she was most of all concerned for her fetus.

"He grabbed me by the neck, my legs were dangling as he held me against a fence," Walker told NBC 4 New York. "Then he started kicking me in the stomach."

Walker was taken to the hospital with bruising and cuts, but she says an ultrasound showed her fetus was unharmed.

It was not immediately clear if Gillybrand had an attorney. 



Photo Credit: NYPD]]>
<![CDATA[Man Shoots, Kills Construction Worker in Connecticut]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:42:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bridgeport+construction+shooting.jpg

A man shot and killed a construction worker moments after showing up at a construction site to ask for a job in Bridgeport, Connecticut on Thursday morning.

The man arrived at the construction site just before 9 a.m., according to police. Witnesses told officers the shooter asked the company foreman about a potential job, but the foreman referred the man to the company office to fill out an application.

According to police, the man walked away, but returned a short time later and fired several shots at the construction crew, hitting and killing a 30-year-old employee who was working in a trench. The shooter did not know the victim, police said.

Two officers who were directing traffic at the construction site chased the suspect and called for backup.

The suspect was found hiding behind a house across the street from where he lives, police said.

Investigators recovered a handgun and the suspect admitted to the shooting, according to police.

They have not identified the suspect or the victim.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[$58 Million Mega Millions Ticket Sold in NYC]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:00:55 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/lafile-mega-millions-lottery-tickets-megamillions-lotto.jpg

A jackpot-winning Mega Millions ticket was sold Tuesday in Manhattan, lottery officials say.

The winning ticket, worth a whopping $58 million, was purchased for $1 as a Quick Pick at World Books in One Penn Plaza.

The winning numbers were 02 – 23 – 32 – 45 – 55, and the Mega Ball was 12.

Officials say the winner has one year from the date of the drawing to claim the prize. The jackpot is paid either in 26 annual payments or a lump sum payment of $38.3 million.

World Books will receive a $10,000 bonus for selling the jackpot-winning ticket.

Another $1 million second prize Mega Millions ticket was sold as a Quick Pick in Suffolk County at Kings Park Stationers in Kings Park.  

A $40 million-winning Powerball ticket was also sold in New Jersey on Tuesday, officials say. 

The winning tickets are the latest in a hot streak for lottery players in the tri-state.

A $136 million Powerball ticket was sold at a Staten Island 7-Eleven on March 15, and two players in Sullivan County hit Mega Millions jackpots in the last several months. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mom of 1st Grader Dragged by 8th Graders At NYC School to Sue]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:42:07 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/1st+graders+assaulted.jpg

The mother of one of the first graders who was dragged across the floor by older students at a Queens School plans to sue the city for $5.5 million, her attorney announced.

Latoya Gore plans to file suit against the Department of Education after a group of eighth grade girls repeatedly dragged her 7-year-old daughter and two other first-graders in a school hallway at P.S. 111 in Long Island City on March 10. The mother's attorney filed a notice of claim Wednesday, attorney Scott Rynecki announced Thursday morning.

According to the Daily News, Gore alleges that the eighth graders assaulted her daughter because she refused to join their public school fight club.

The DOE released a 30-second clip of the altercation, and said its special commissioner of investigation is looking into the incident. Four teachers and a paraprofessional who left the students unsupervised were removed from the classroom during the investigation.

 

“Nothing is more important than our students’ safety and we have taken swift action and removed the adults who were responsible for these children," The DOE said in a statement. "We are on the ground supporting the school community and have added school safety staff. We pledge to these families and children that we will hold accountable anyone who put children in harm's way."

The video shows the eighth graders reading to the first graders when one of the eighth graders can be seen throwing a bottle and some papers at one of the younger students. The older students can later be seen dragging the younger students across the floor.

Pamela Roth, an attorney who had represented one of the  victims shown in the video, said the eighth graders were part of a tutoring program called “Each One Teach One” and that they were left unsupervised with the younger students for about 30 minutes.

“These eighth graders actually coerce and force the first graders to fight with each other,” Roth said earlier this month. “They were dragging them on the floor, harassing them and intimidating them.”

Roth says her client was so traumatized from the incident, she had to transfer to another school. 

Roth had said she was pursuing legal action to get the DOE to release the full 30 minutes of surveillance video.

]]>
<![CDATA[Cars Mysteriously Break Down After Filling Up]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 06:52:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/217*120/watered+down+gas+enrite.JPG

Drivers filling up their tanks at a New Jersey gas station say their cars are getting damaged and they suspect it has to do with what's being pumped out of the gas lines.

Police in Hopatcong say 10 drivers have reported problems after filling up at the Enrite gas station. Drivers continued to pull up all evening Wednesday to tell NBC 4 New York how their cars have broken down after they filled up there.

Marlene Caprio said her car had to be towed from Bergen County after it was damaged extensively. Leah Keyes said her brand-new car "totally died."

Mechanic Andrew Muns recounted another customer's experience: "It wouldn't start. She said, 'I went to hit the gas and it was bucking and kept stalling and shutting off.'"

The drivers said their mechanics told them their gas tanks were loaded with water.

A sample of the gas that Keyes got after she brought her car in to the mechanic and shown to NBC 4 New York revealed a visible separation between water and gas, making it apparent the gasoline was watered down.

In fact, mechanics found more than half the fuel in the tanks was water. Some drivers said they had damage ranging from $600 to $800.

Muns said water in the gas tank "can rust all your fuel lines out, it can cause permanent damage to the engine, bent valves."

Keyes doesn't know how the water got into the gasoline.

"I don't know if it's a matter of, did they get a bad delivery form their supplier," she said. "I would like to think that it's an accident."

Police say they're not investigating the incidents as a crime. An employee at the gas station Wednesday said the owner was out of the shop and would return Thursday.

But police say the owner told them that he has no idea how the water got in the tanks and that any drivers with vehicle damage should contact him. He's already paid Marlene Caprio for her $800 repair.

"He did stand by his word, and I respect that," said Caprio.

]]>
<![CDATA[9 Students Arrested in Videotaped Brawl: Police]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:38:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Fight-Connetquot-NY.jpg

Police on Long Island say they've arrested nine students in a large off-campus brawl earlier this month in which baseball bats and brass knuckles were used to attack one another after a lunchroom dispute. 

The melee broke out the afternoon of Saturday, March 7 in an industrial park in Ronkonkoma following a dispute at Connetquot High School in Bohemia, police and family members say. 

Nine students were arrested, and four of them are being charged as juveniles, Suffolk police say. Those four are expected to appear at First District Court in Central Islip at a later date.

The five others, ranging in age from 16 to 18, face a variety of charges, some for criminal possession of a weapon, menacing, disorderly conduct and harassment. 

A family member of one of the students involved told NBC 4 New York at the time that the fight was a manifestation of ongoing racial tensions between the students

Video obtained by NBC 4 New York shows several teens standing in a street arguing before the fight breaks out. One person, who is black, accuses a white person of calling him a racial epithet. Then, one of the participants can be seen pulling a metal bat out and handing it to another person.

Then, a person can be heard saying, "Take the brass knuckles off, bro" to the teen who initially had the bat. That person is then heard yelling expletives and, "I'm from Queens, New York!"

The video shows a third teen run up and punch one of the other teens in the face. At that point, all the students begin brawling in the street. 

The fight lasted about 10 minutes, police say. 

Student Nicholas Abrahamson suffered a broken jaw and was taken to Stony Brook Hospital for surgery. No other students were seriously hurt.

Abrahamson was not one of the arrested students, police said. 

The students involved in the fight had already been suspended from school pending a disciplinary review. 

The school district has said it tried to intervene following the lunchroom dispute Friday, the day before the brawl, and contacted the students' parents.

"The intention was to make the parents aware of the school district’s concern that the verbal argument could grow into something more serious over the weekend outside of the school district’s jurisdiction," the school said in a statement.

In addition to increasing security measures following the fight and conducting random bag checks on students, the school district said it was setting up a task force to deal with harassment and set up a mediation system for feuding students. 

]]>