A day after an explosion brought down two buildings in East Harlem, killing at least eight people, Mayor Bill de Blasio met with first responders and urged New Yorkers to call the city or Con Edison whenever they suspect a gas leak. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Mayor Bill de Blasio saw the recovery efforts firsthand Thursday morning.
"It's been, as I said, a painful 26 hours now," he said.
He and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito visited the site of the explosion to speak with first responders. The wreckage was still smoldering.
"They've been fighting through the cold. They've been fighting through the wind," de Blasio said. "Exceedingly difficult circumstances, and they have stuck with it."
There have been reports that people in the area had smelled gas for days before the explosion, but Police Commissioner William Bratton said that the city received no phone calls about gas leaks in that area going back to 2010. The only recent call Con Edison said it got was one that came in the morning of the explosion.
The mayor is urging New Yorkers to call the city or Con Edison when they suspect there is a gas leak.
"A gas leak call is not treated as business as usual. It demands an urgent response from whatever combination of Con Ed and the fire department," de Blasio said.
There seems to already be an uptick in those calls. Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said that earlier this month, the department was getting an average of 49 calls a day about suspected gas leaks. On Wednesday, the day of the explosion, nearly twice that number came in.
"It is so much better to report the possibility even of a gas leak and let there be a response, and let's pray the response shows there's no problem, than to hesitate," de Blasio said.
Emergencies like these can prompt calls for changes to the city's emergency response protocols, but in this case, the mayor said that the system is in good shape.
"I think the emergency preparedness in this city is extraordinarily high and precise and capable right now," he said.
The mayor emphasized that the fire department was able to respond quickly. They were at the site of the explosion in two minutes.