After ‘Craven’ Bombing, Anger and Resolve in Chelsea

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo tour W. 23rd St. on Sun., Sept. 18. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo tour W. 23rd St. on Sun., Sept. 18. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

FDNY personnel with a stretcher and response gear at the ready. 29 people were injured as a result of Saturday night’s explosion. Photo by Daniel Kwak.

FDNY personnel with a stretcher and response gear at the ready, after Saturday night’s explosion. Photo by Daniel Kwak.

BY EILEEN STUKANE (5:45 p.m. | Sept. 18, 2016) The bomb explosion at 8:30 p.m. last night in or near a dumpster in front of 131 W. 23rd St. (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) sent shrapnel flying and left New Yorkers, and Chelsea residents in particular, in a state of disbelief and concern — feelings compounded by the discovery of a second possible explosive, a pressure cooker bomb found undetonated on W. 27th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. None of the 29 injuries were life-threatening, but as Chelsea’s Councilmember Corey Johnson told Chelsea Now today, “It’s a miracle that there were no fatalities.”

Johnson learned that one of those injured last night was a friend who is a staff member at New York’s City Council. “He was on West 23rd Street walking home and he was struck with different material,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what the material was but he was taken to Lenox Health [formerly Healthplex] on Seventh Avenue near West 13th Street. His head was bloody and his back was bloody. His were minor injuries, but it was a very traumatic experience.”

The rolling dumpster believed to be the point of origin for an explosion that shattered nerves in West Chelsea, at approx. 8:30 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 17. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

A rolling dumpster, possibly the point of origin for an explosion that shattered nerves in West Chelsea, at approx. 8:30 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 17. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

Today, W. 23rd St. was filled with NYPD presence and blocked to traffic and pedestrians from Fifth to Seventh Aves. (check Notify NYC for latest street closures).

This residential neighborhood seemed an unlikely target for attack. As Johnson said, “There’s anxiety and confusion, people just wondering how could this happen in Chelsea, on 23rd Street. It’s not Times Square. It’s not the World Trade Center.”

Several blocks of W. 23rd St. remained closed to vehicular traffic on the morning of Sun., Sept. 18. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Several blocks of W. 23rd St. remained closed to vehicular traffic on the morning of Sun., Sept. 18. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

What’s on the block, in close proximity to where the bomb exploded, is Selis Manor (135 W. 23rd St.), an affordable housing residence for people who are visually impaired or fully blind. “Those residents are the most vulnerable, the blind. Of all the craven things to do!” said a young mother from W. 19th St., on Sunday morning.

“My understanding is that the building [Selis Manor] sustained some damage,” Johnson told Chelsea Now, noting there were “windows that were blown out. It must have been terrifying for the folks living there.”

On the morning of Sun., Sept. 18: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo at 131 W. 23rd St., identified as the location of the previous night’s explosion. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

On the morning of Sun., Sept. 18: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo at 131 W. 23rd St., identified as the location of the previous night’s explosion. Photo by Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office.

Helen Murphy, a resident of Selis Manor, was downstairs playing Bingo when “all of a sudden we hear a ‘ba-boom,’ ” she said. “Somebody says, ‘It’s thunder,’ and I said, ‘It’s not thunder; it sounds like a bomb going off.’ ”

According to Murphy, the president of the building’s tenant association was standing across the street last night after the explosion, and couldn’t return to the building due to the fire trucks, the NYPD bomb squad, and the presence of the mayor. Slowly, holding on to both banisters because she cannot see, Helen made her way up the eight flights of stairs to her apartment. “The elevators lock automatically when the alarms go off,” she noted.

In his noontime press conference today regarding the explosion, Mayor Bill de Blasio was clear: “It was intentional, it was a violent act, it was a criminal act, it was a bombing. That’s what we know. To understand any specific motivations, any political motivations, any connection to an organization — that we don’t know.” NY Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the site of the explosion today, alongside the mayor, and commented that although so far there is no known link to international terrorism. “It’s terrorism when a bomb explodes in New York City,” Cuomo said.

Mayor de Blasio would not use the “T” word, but said, “We’re interested in giving confirmed facts. When we have those facts we’ll give them to you.”

Though the NPYD investigated a Tumblr posting from someone calling himself/herself the “NY Bomber,” who stated that the bombs were “a protest for the oppression of the LGBT community,” according to WPIX News, late on Sunday afternoon, police officials and the mayor’s office said they had determined that the manifesto was not credible and was linked to a person in North Carolina.

Also by late Sunday afternoon, de Blasio announced an increased police presence in the city and Cuomo said he would be asking the National Guard to be a presence at airports and other transportation hubs.

Meanwhile, although our elected officials encourage us to be to be resilient and vigilant, and not cowed by cowardly acts, New Yorkers cannot deny having some trepidation.

One woman at Eataly’s (Fifth Ave. & W. 23rd St.) produce checkout today admitted, “It makes me scared to be outside. You have to live your life in New York City — and I’m getting married next weekend — but it’s very scary, very nerve-wracking.” However, she added that even though she felt that, and she and her fiancé were aware of the explosion, they still went out into the city streets last night. In a testament to resilience, Eataly was packed with people, mostly tourists, some residents, who seemed undeterred by events.

Onlookers at the corner of Seventh Ave. & W. 23rd St. on the morning of Sun., Sept. 18 — as close as they could get to the block btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves., where an explosion occurred the previous night. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Onlookers at the corner of Seventh Ave. & W. 23rd St. on the morning of Sun., Sept. 18 — as close as they could get to the block btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves., where an explosion occurred the previous night. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Jermaine Kinsey, an employee at Legoland (Fifth Ave. at W. 23rd St.) was in the store at the time of the explosion, which occurred after closing. “I was thankful that the store closes at 8 p.m. and all of our guests got out in time. We have a lot of children here,” he said. Today the store is once again filled with parents and children laughing over Legos. “It was a confusing night,” Kinsey said. “We were still in the building. You could feel the ground shaking but there was confusion. You have to stop and think, ‘What’s going on?’ 9/11 memorial was just last week, and then the next week, something exploded right here. It was really life-changing.”

As a Chelsea father holding his six-and-a-half-month-old-daughter said, while he shopped, going on as if nothing happened, just living our lives, “is the way it should be, but it’s sad that we live in a world like this, that we have to worry about stuff like this.” His wife added, “But we’re lifelong New Yorkers. This doesn’t change our feelings of living in New York. We’re not going to leave.”

The NYPD asks anyone with information to call 1-800-577-TIPS. Visit http://www.coreyjohnson.nyc and mta.info for the latest public safety, street closure, and public transit information.

The NYPD set up a protective perimeter almost immediately following Saturday night’s explosion on W. 23rd St. Photo by Daniel Kwak.

The NYPD set up a protective perimeter almost immediately following Saturday night’s explosion on W. 23rd St. Photo by Daniel Kwak.

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