2nd Ave. tenants sue city, Con Ed, landlord for ’15 gas explosion

A photo taken by a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer from the E. Seventh St. building just west of the explosion site, showing the three craters left where the tenements had stood.

A photo taken in the Second Ave. disaster’s wake by a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer from the E. Seventh St. building just west of the explosion site, showing the three craters left where the tenements had stood.

BY YANNIC RACK | Around three dozen tenants have filed a nearly $19 million lawsuit against the city and others in the wake of the fiery gas explosion that killed two men and leveled three buildings in the East Village last March.

A roster of current and former tenants, including lead plaintiff and “Sopranos” actress Drea de Matteo, filed a civil suit in Manhattan Supreme Court last Tuesday that blames the city and Con Edison for not cracking down on the illegal gas hook-up at 121 Second Ave. that led to the blast and subsequent fire on March 26, 2015.

In their complaint, the tenants allege that the defendants failed “to observe significant and dangerous ‘red flags’ and malfeasance” on the part of the building’s owners, managers and contractors — who are also listed in the lawsuit and were already indicted on criminal charges in connection with the blast earlier this year.

The defendants also failed to “properly test the gas lines” and relied “upon an illogical and antiquated system of enforcement, inspections and unreliable self-certification,” according to the suit.

Maria Hrynenko, the owner of 121 Second Ave., her son Michael Hrynenko, contractor Dilber Kukic and plumber Athanasios “Jerry” Ioannidis illegally tampered with the building’s gas lines and failed to warn residents about the danger, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who brought criminal charges against them in February.

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Councilmember Rosie Mendez, left, and Public Advocate Letitia James listened to a Second Ave. tenant who was displaced by the catastrophe as she spoke this spring on the disaster’s one-year anniversary.

Prosecutors back then described an illegal scheme in which the defendants allegedly twice installed unsafe gas systems in the basement of the building — hiding the second one from inspectors’ view after the first was found and shut off by Con Ed.

When a leak from the illegal setup of valves and hoses finally caused an explosion, Moises Locón, an employee of Japanese eatery Sushi Park, and Nicholas Figueroa, a diner there, were killed.

The ensuing fire quickly spread to neighboring buildings 119 and 123 Second Ave., and all three structures eventually collapsed, dislocating scores of tenants.

“Our clients have waited patiently for this investigation to near completion,” the tenants’ lawyers, Scott Agulnick and Mark Friedman, said in a statement. “They have lost their homes, belongings and have been financially devastated. We look forward to their day in court, and holding all those responsible accountable for their actions and inactions.”

A raging fire consumed 121 and 123 Second Ave. after the explosion. In the end, three buildings were destroyed. Photo via Twitter / @liberation nyc

A raging fire consumed 121 and 123 Second Ave. after the explosion. In the end, three buildings were destroyed. Photo via Twitter / @liberation nyc

The civil complaint charges that, “in their construction…defendants illegally placed certain gas hook-ups and attachments to the gas mains and lines at the premises.”

It adds that the workers “failed to properly cap the gas lines and mains, [and] allowed gas to escape while working at the premises.”

The residents charge that Con Ed also failed to obtain the proper permits for gas-related construction at the building and never alerted anyone when workers reported smelling gas.

They further say the city was “reckless, careless and negligent in failing to properly maintain the utility infrastructure [and] gas delivery instrumentalities.”

Stuart Lipsky, who lives with his wife and daughter at 125 Second Ave., said he signed on as a plaintiff to the lawsuit because he wanted to see the city and Con Ed held accountable — although the shock from the blast and the loss of his beloved cat will stay with him forever, he said.

“What they took from me, I can’t get back: my peace of mind and my kitten,” he said. He quickly added, though, that many of his neighbors lost much more than that.

“When you look out the window — their lives, they used to be there,” he said of the empty site where the three tenements formerly stood.

“For 22 years that was my home, my children’s home,” de Matteo told the Daily News last week. “We lost every memory, photograph, hard drive.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department said it was reviewing the complaint, and a Con Ed spokesperson said the utility company would respond to the lawsuit in court.

In February, federal prosecutors indicted the owners of No. 121, which housed Sushi Park, and their contractors in connection with the blast.

The Hrynenkos and their workers now face criminal charges of manslaughter, assault, negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

In addition, plumber Andrew Trombettas, was charged with “renting” his master plumbing license to Ioannidis so that the latter could get work on the property approved.

All five are named as defendants in the civil suit, in addition to Neighborhood Construction Corp., Beta Plumbing and Heating Corp., SK Piping & Heating Corp., Stavros Kalogeropoulos, Sushi Park Inc., and Hyeonil Kim.

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