Steam Pipe Explosion: Some buildings contaminated, others reopen

Four days after a massive steam pipe explosion in Manhattan, Con Edison and city agencies have worked to clean up the area and reopen buildings to residents and businesses. The explosion, on 21st Street and Fifth Avenue, spewed asbestos and other debris high into the air.

"We've largely completed the cleanup of the area impacted by the steam rupture and that involved scrubbing streets and building facades," Con Edison President Tim Cawley said at a public briefing Monday night. "That work has allowed the city agencies to open up streets to traffic through much of the area."

At least 24 buildings out of the more than 45 evacuated on Thursday following have reopened, according to the city's Emergency Management Department. Another dozen should be opened in another day. But 11 buildings, in the so-called hot zone, have confirmed asbestos contamination.

"We're looking for debris from the incident," Deputy Commissioner Angela Licata of the Environmental Protection Department said. "If we see that debris, we're calling that building contaminated and suggesting that an asbestos contractor come and do that cleanup."

Authorities have reopened 18th Street, 19th Street, and 20th Street. Fifth Avenue is open only to MTA buses. It is still closed between 20th Street and 21st Street to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Air samples analyzed have tested negative for asbestos but some debris has tested positive, according to updates on But many people told Fox 5 that they are still concerned about asbestos in the air.


The following buildings have reopened:

11, 17 West 19 Street and 10, 16 West 20 Street

119 5 Avenue and 3 East 19 Street

142 5 Avenue and 1, 5 West 19 Street

146 5 Avenue

15 West 20 Street

162 5 Avenue and 1 West 21 Street

18 West 21 Street

19 West 21 Street

22 West 21 Street

29 West 21 Street

4, 10 West 21 Street

5 West 21 Street

7 East 20 Street

7 West 20 Street

7 West 21 Street

9 West 19 Street

9 West 20 Street