The explosion disrupted mass transit in the area for hours, and while buses were still being diverted as of 11 p.m. Wednesday, service is back on the busy Metro-North line that has tracks just feet from the blast site. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
It isn't exactly where confused suburbanites expected to find themselves at the height of the evening rush Wednesday, but after the East Harlem building collapse, they had to navigate the subway system to 161st Street, then take a long walk to a packed Yankees-153rd Street Metro-North station.
"Well, the subway was quicker than I thought, and right now, if the train shows up on time, then I guess we're good," said one commuter.
The blast across the street from the elevated Metro-North tracks on Park Avenue knocked out service to and from Grand Central for most of the day, as workers had to clear debris that rained down from the falling buildings. That left Metro-North riders scrambling to find ways to get around.
"We're coming down from Poughkeepsie, and we had to get off at Marble Hill and figure out how to get to Grand Central," said one commuter.
That's where many riders lingered as they tried to escape the city.
"I'm trying to figure out if I'm going to take the long way home or hang out here, and hopefully, service will be restored," said one commuter.
It was, just before the evening rush, but not before thousands of commuters had to grasp just how they would get home.
"I just have to make do and take the subway up into the Bronx or something, I guess. We'll see. I'm glad I'm not in a rush right now," said one commuter.
Those who were boarded packed subway cars and swamped police officers and transit workers with questions on where to turn next.
"I don't know New York. I don't know New York. So going around here, it's like 'Oh my God!'" said one commuter.
The service interruption was the latest headache for beleaguered Metro-North, which had a worker fatally struck by a train on Monday, 10 blocks south of where the buildings exploded.
"In Harlem, and we saw the explosions, and that's where they let us out," said one commuter. "We weren't able to proceed any further."
Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials are hoping that Thursday's commute will be a lot less eventful across the elevated structure that they say is secure.