At least 500 displaced in steam pipe blast; cleanup to last several days

FLATIRON DISTRICT, Manhattan — About 500 people are displaced after the site of a steam pipe explosion in the Flatiron District Thursday morning tested positive for asbestos.

The area of West 19th Street to West 22nd Street between Broadway and Avenue of Americas remains a "hot spot" area after an aging steam pipe exploded along Fifth Avenue and West 21st Street around 6:40 a.m. Thursday.

The ruptured pipe sent steam and debris shooting up stories high for hours, covering the surrounding area with thick soot — the area testing positive for the asbestos, prompting decontamination efforts which have been described as a "massive undertaking" and may last through the weekend.

In a press conference on Friday, Commissioner of the NYC Emergency Management Department, Joe Esposito, said the air is safe and the only concern is the debris on the ground and buildings. The expected rain over the weekend will help with building clean up.

CoEdison operates the largest steam loop in the world. The 105-mile system goes from the tip of southern Manhattan to 96th Street on the westside and 89th Street on the eastside.

Steve Mosto, with Mosto Technologies, works with companies who use steam for heat and power. He described how the ConEd maintains and monitors the system.

Con Edison personnel will be at three locations to assist those affect:

  • Clinton School at 10 East 15th Street will be open for residents who cannot get back into their homes and need financial assistance from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Near 19th Street and Broadway and near 22nd Street and Broadway - Personnel will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to provide claim forms and accept clothing worn by people in the are at the time of the explosion.

Claim forms are also available for people to submit to receive compensation for their clothes. To get a claim form, click here. 

Those who live or work in the affected area and need to retrieve medical supplies or pets should report to the reception center.

Nearly 50 buildings are being assessed and decontaminated, leaving about 500 individuals displaced from 249 residential units.

These individuals are not permitted to enter the “hot spot” buildings until cleared by authorities.

The American Red Cross will be at the reception center to assist evacuated residents.

The NYC Emergency Management Department provided a map that indicates streets closed off to pedestrians, residents and areas that need to be vacated.

The explosion affected one main line that connects to several feeders, which may affect air conditioners and hot water in the immediate area. There is no known impact to gas or electricity, according to Saumil Shukla, with Con Edison.

Esposito said the investigation will take up to six months to complete.

Multiple MTA buses are also detoured due to street closures:

  • BM1, BM2, BM3 and BM4 buses are rerouted eastbound via 5 Av, left on 34 St, right on Lexington Av, left on 23 St and then resume their regular route.
  • Northbound BxM6, BxM7, BxM8, BxM9, BxM10 and BxM11 buses traveling toward midtown are detoured via 5 Av, left on 28 St, right on Park Av, right on Madison Av and then resume their regular route.