Harlem building in explosion previously cited for housing violations

harlem fire
Firefighters respond to Wednesday morning’s fire and building collapse in East Harlem.
Credit: Gwen McClure/Metro

City records show that the collapsed East Harlem building destroyed in Wednesday’s explosion was recently cited for 13 different violations including missing smoke detectors and at least one blocked fire escape.

The building at 1646 Park Ave. has a litany of living condition violations tracked by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, at least 60 violations dating back to 1967.

The violations are unrelated to any concerns about the building’s infrastructure, and there are no indications they had anything to do with the suspected gas leak that destroyed it and its adjacent building. City records also showed that the only construction violation at 1646 Park Ave. was related to a crack in the building’s exterior from 2008.

Records show that a woman identified as Kaoru Muramatsu owned 1646 Park Ave. as well as the Absolute Piano store on the first floor.

A man answered a call to the piano store but hung up after he was unable to confirm if the store’s staff was safe an accounted for.

Con Edison said that residents at 1644 Park Ave. had complained about a gas leak before the explosion. The company responded to the call shortly before the explosion but was not able to determine leak’s source.Between them, the two buildings had 15 family units.

City officials confirmed, however, that neither had any open gas or plumbing related violations nor were they undergoing any major structural work.

“Theres no indication that it’s related to construction work,” Acting Buildings Department Commissioner Thomas Fariello said Wednesday, adding that the building had no open permits before the blast.

Records also revealed that the owners of 1644 Park Ave. — registered as Spanish Christian Church Inc — were approved to install 120 feet of gas piping from the basement to the fifth floor.

The Rev. Thomas Perez, who operates a storefront ministry on the first floor, is listed as the second building’s owner. There are no recent violations attributed to 1644 Park Ave.

Coincidentally, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez — who represents a nearby section of northern Manhattan — introduced a bill into the City Council shortly after the blaze. The bill, which is now in committee, would stop landlords from receiving any new permits until existing complaints are adequately addressed.

Anna Sanders contributed reporting.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria


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