Gas explosions rock the Heights

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A series of underground explosions rocked the heart of Brooklyn Heights on Monday afternoon, sending residents out into the street, but causing minimal damage, police said.

Officers responded to Joralemon Street between Hicks Street and Willow Place after getting reports of up to five explosions at around 1 pm. Independent contractors who had been installing a gas line in front of the MTA substation at 25 Willow Pl. hit a subway power line and caused nearby manholes to blow, cops added.

“I heard a loud ‘boom’ and a few minutes later, firefighters were telling me to get out,” said Willow Place resident Ben Bankson, who waited for hours asking to get back into his home on Monday. “The explosions shook some of my friends’ homes.”

Others said their historic brownstone and brick houses quaked with each blast.

Smoke and dust billowed throughout the scenic Willowtown portion of Brooklyn Heights for as long as an hour after the final explosion. Paving stones around the manholes were rippled like warped wood, surrounded by police tape and scurrying firefighters.

Dozens of people, mostly senior citizens, were lingering in the street, waiting for permission to return to their homes as workers tried to fix the mess. Bankson said each of some 180 units had to be inspected for further gas leaks.

Service on the 4 and 5 trains, which travel through the Joralemon Street tunnel between Borough Hall and City Hall, was out for most of the afternoon, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported. The 5 train was re-routed over the 2 line between Manhattan and Nevins Street.

When gas levels in the area were finally deemed safe and the trains were back in service, residents were allowed to filter back into their homes.

No major damage was reported to homes or people, though Bankson said he and his neighbors would be talking about the incident for a long time.

“I was in the middle of baking stuff for my neighbors when it happened,” he said. “Now we’re shook up.”

Updated 6:10 pm, January 20, 2010: Story was updated to add more details.
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Reader Feedback

Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
Marty Markowitz farted
Jan. 18, 2010, 10:27 pm
Marty M from Borough Hall says:
Sorry I farted - but I'm fat and I can't help it. Gas explosions happen, especially when I have just eaten a delicious Brooklyn poutine. Yummers!

But as your borough president I feel like, when I fart, brooklyn just has to accept it. like when I reward my friends and give sweetheart deals to developers probably for personal gain, Brooklyn I fart and you take it.
Jan. 22, 2010, 4:36 am

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