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Trial Begins in Deadly East Village Gas Explosion

East Village, Manhattan

Gas Explosion Trial

The scene on Second Avenue after the deadly gas explosion in 2015.

Sept. 10, 2019

The fire has been extinguished. The rubble has been cleared. The funerals have been held. The laws have been stiffened. And now, four years after the deadly gas explosion in the East Village left two people dead and three buildings in ruins, the trial has begun. 

 "Unbeknownst to the people who were walking down the street, driving down the street, there was a virtual bomb lurking under the East Village," Assistant District Attorney Randolph Clarke said in his opening statement on Monday, WABC News reports. Prosecutors will attempt to prove that the landlord and workers manipulated the gas system at 121 Second Avenue to avoid losing rent during a renovation project. Thirteen people were injured by the blast. 

Facing manslaughter and other charges are the building owner, 59-year-old Maria Hrynenko, of Rockland County; an unlicensed plumber, 63-year-old Athanasios Ioannidis, of Queens; and the general contractor, 44-year-old Dilber Kukic, of the Bronx. Hrynenko's son, who prosecutors accuse of signing off on the work, died two years ago at age 31. 

In his opening statement at the trial, Hrynenko's attorney, Michael Burke, called the explosion a tragic accident, saying it originated not in Hrynenko’s gas line but in the Sushi Park restaurant on the ground floor, where employees had complained of a gas smell for months before the explosion and where both victims, a bus boy and a recent college graduate, died. 

The aftermath of the deadly explosion continues to roil the world of New York real estate. The city passed stringent new gas line inspection regulations that went into effect last January. And this past summer, partly to reel in unscrupulous landlords, the state passed the sweeping Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act. Both laws have serious repercussions for co-op and condo boards.

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