29 injured in massive Chelsea blast; An ‘intentional act,’ de Blasio says

chelsea-zach-1

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at a press conference late Saturday night on W. 23rd St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves. He was joined by new Police Commissioner James O’Neill, to the right of him, and Fire Department Commissioner Dan Nigro, to the left of him. Photo by Zach Williams.

BY ZACH WILLIAMS AND LINCOLN ANDERSON | Flanked by Police and Fire Department officials and local politicians, Mayor Bill de Blasio late on Saturday night said the explosion on W. 23rd St. in Chelsea is believed to have been “an intentional act.”

Police are still investigating the incident, which occurred around 8:30 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 17. De Blasio said, at an 11:20 p.m. press conference that there is “no evidence of a terrorist connection.”

The incident injured 29 people, one seriously. Police with dogs continued sweeping through Chelsea past midnight, after a suspicious pressure cooker was found on W. 27th St. — with a cell phone and wires attached, as reported by NY1.

“I want to be clear, whatever the cause, whatever the intention, New Yorkers will not be intimidated,” de Blasio said. “We are not going to let anyone change who we are and how we go about our lives.”

De Blasio added that there was no link to an earlier explosion on the Jersey Shore of a powerful pipe bomb that was timed to detonate during a Marine Corps charity run. Luckily, the run’s start was delayed and no one was injured.

chelsea-zach-2

Word quickly spread on social media immediately following the 8:30 p.m. explosion. Photo by Zach Williams

Newly installed Police Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters that police have video of the explosion, believed to have originated from a dumpster. While on patrol, police from the 10th Precinct witnessed the incident, which occurred at 131 W. 23rd St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves. The location is near Selis Manor, at 135 W. 23rd St., a residence for the blind and visually impaired.

The F.B.I. has joined the New York Police Department in investigating the cause of the blast. There are no indications that it was a gas explosion, O’Neill added.

Governor Andrew Cuomo also issued a statement, saying, in part, “State officials are coordinating our response with federal and New York City authorities, and full state resources have been made available for this investigation. We are closely monitoring the situation and urge New Yorkers to, as always, remain calm and vigilant.”

At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, after touring the blast area early that morning, de Blasio reported that all of the victims had been released from the hospital.

chelea-blast-3

On Saturday night, Chelsea residents and curious passersby stood outside a protective permitter set up by police around the blast site. Photo by Daniel Kwak

Chelsea residents said they felt the explosion from their homes and were not sure at first what happened. Simitrio Ramirez, 53, a W. 22nd St. resident, said he was watching TV when he felt “a really loud shake.” He rushed outside to see what happened.

“It was a really loud noise and it felt like it shook the building right away,” he said in Spanish. “I thought it was an attack. I thought about September 11th because the anniversary was so recent.”

While in her home near W. 21st St. and Seventh Ave., Sadeta Pupovich, 51, was playing with her granddaughter when her “chair rocked so hard.” She ran up to her roof and saw people filing out of restaurants and other nearby buildings.

Sunday morning, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo inspected the scene outside 131 W. 23rd St., the site of the previous night’s explosion. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

Sunday morning, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo inspected the scene outside 131 W. 23rd St., the site of the previous night’s explosion. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

She said the sudden interruption to a peaceful Saturday evening scared her.

“I couldn’t stop crying,” she said.

The explosion was heard as far away as Tenth Ave.

Along with police officers and firefighters, members of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Con Edison were on the scene.

Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio inspecting the small dumpster on W. 23rd St., either inside of which or next to the bomb was located. Photo by Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office.

On Sunday morning, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio examining the small dumpster on W. 23rd St., either inside of which or next to the bomb was located. Photo by Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office.

As of early Sunday afternoon, W. 23rd St. remained closed to vehicular traffic between Fifth and Seventh Aves.; northbound traffic was restricted on Sixth Ave. above W. 14th St.; southbound traffic was restricted on Seventh Ave. below W. 34th St.; and all crosstown traffic was closed from W. 14th St. to W. 32nd St. between Fifth and Eighth Aves.

As for public transportation, 1 trains were bypassing the W. 23rd St. and W. 28th St. stops in both directions; E and F trains were bypassing W. 23rd St. in both directions; and multiple bus routes were being detoured around the area due to ongoing activity at W. 23rd St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves.

chelsea-blast-4

On Saturday evening, a man asked a police officer about the extent of the street closures after the explosion. Photo by Daniel Kwak

Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents the area, said the community won’t be intimidated.

“The people of Chelsea will not be cowed by acts of violence and intimidation,” he declared. “When faced with challenges, we come together as a community and emerge even stronger. My thoughts are with over two-dozen people who were injured… . I am in close contact with the Mayor’s Office and Police Commissioner’s Office as this investigation unfolds. I urge anyone with any information about these incidents to contact authorities immediately.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential.

The two major-party presidential candidates also weighed in early after the Chelsea blast.

Republican Donald Trump was quick to declare it a bomb, even before New York officials had released details.

“But boy we are living in a time —we better get very tough, folks,” Trump said. “We better get very, very tough. It’s a terrible thing that’s going on in our world, in our country and we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton initially gave a more measured response.

“It’s important to know the facts about any incident like this,” she said. “I think it’s always wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions, because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened.”

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney also cautioned against pointing the finger at anyone at this stage of the investigation.

“New Yorkers’ response to the incident showed how the community knew what to do in this crisis – remaining calm and allowing our emergency responders to do their jobs,” she said. “I am proud of how all involved reacted in the wake of the explosion.

“The investigation into the explosion is still ongoing, and I am confident that our police and anti-terrorism experts will bring the perpetrators to justice. At this time, it does not appear to be linked to international terrorism or the explosion on the Jersey Shore earlier on Saturday.

“At this point,” Maloney added, “we cannot and should not ascribe blame or jump to any conclusions but continue to support our friends in Chelsea and the law enforcement officers working on the investigation.”

However, on Sunday afternoon, as the story continued to unfold, Clinton issued another statement now deeming the New York and New Jersey explosions “apparent terrorist attacks.” There was a third incident on Saturday, when a man stabbed multiple people inside a Minnesota mall, and was then fatally shot by an off-duty cop. ISIS posted a statement saying the slain man was “a soldier of the Islamic State.”

“I strongly condemn the apparent terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New Jersey and New York,” Clinton said. “I pray for all of those who were wounded, and for their families. Once again, we saw the bravery of our first responders who run toward danger to help others. Their quick actions saved lives.

“Law enforcement officials are working to identify who was behind the attacks in New York and New Jersey and we should give them the support they need to finish the job and bring those responsible to justice — we will not rest until that happens. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack in Minnesota, and this should steel our resolve to protect our country and defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups. I have laid out a comprehensive plan to do that. This includes launching an intelligence surge to help identify and thwart attacks before they can be carried out, and to spot lone-wolf attackers.

“We also need to work with Silicon Valley to counter propaganda and recruitment efforts online,” Clinton added. “Americans have faced threats before, and our resilience in the face of them only makes us stronger. I am confident we will once again choose resolve over fear.”

— Additional reporting by Scott Stiffler, Gustavo Martinez and Gabe Carroll

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *