An illegal gas line triggered the deadly East Village blast that killed two people and injured twenty more victims in a Second Ave. building near E. 7th St. on March 26, 2015. (Todd Maisel/New York Daily News)
By Trevor Boyer and Leonard Greene, NY Daily News
A Manhattan building owner and a pair of crooked construction workers were sentenced Friday to four to 12 years in prison for running an illegal gas line that triggered the deadly East Village blast that killed two people.
Twenty more victims were injured when the Second Ave. building near E. 7th St. blew up on March 26, 2015 and flattened three other buildings.
Prosecutors said building owner Maria Hrynenko, contractor Dilber Kukic and plumber Athanasios Ioannidis ran an illegal gas line into the building, hiding a shady hookup behind a locked closet in the building’s basement during renovations.
Trial testimony revealed that Kukic and Hrynenko’s son fled the building before it blew up without warning any of the occupants of the impending danger. Nicholas Figueroa, 23, who was on a date, and Moises Locon Yac, a busboy at the Sushi Park restaurant on the first floor of the building, died in the blast.
“The defendants did in a matter of speaking roll the dice of the lives of many people,” said Judge Michael Obus at Friday’s sentencing. ”It is actually miraculous that more people, including tenants, passersby, and firefighters.were not injured or killed.” Obus also singled out the landlord.
“She was not only complicit, she was the driving force behind it. And whether she needed the money or not, this was about being able to have tenants pay rent in this building,” said the judge.
Prosecutors said Hrynenko, 59, risked losing tenants and the $24,000 in rent they paid each month if she could not provide gas — so she and her contractor devised a plan to siphon gas from a ground-floor restaurant in the building and funnel it into the apartments.
Soon there were complaints about the smell of gas, and utility workers discovered the makeshift setup and shut the gas for nine days. A new plan was devised to tap a different source next door, but it eventually led to the explosion, prosecutors said. “Developers and property owners across the city should keep today’s sentencing in mind as New York’s building boom continues into 2020,” said Manhattan DA Cy Vance. “If you cut corners based on expediency and profit and kill or injure New Yorkers in the process, you are engaging in criminal conduct.”
The court received more than 70 victim impact letters in advance of the sentencing. Figueroa’s mother, Ana Lanza Figueroa had pushed for the maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison. “I lost my boy, my will to live,” she said. “Now I’m a former shell of myself. The joy that he once gave me is just a fragment of my past.”
Landlord or tenant issue? Ask the Lawyer. Call 855-768-8845 or visit www.askthelawyer.us to schedule an appointment.
Workers’ World Today is a free publication that empowers all workers, regardless of social or political affiliations. Distributed throughout New York City, our paper has a mission to educate workers and provide them with relevant information pertinent to the workforce such as workers’ compensation, discrimination on the job, workers’ rights, and more.