March 18, 2014
By Neal Tepel
The tragic gas explosion in East Harlem on Wednesday March 13th should not have happened in the first place. Weakened, century-old pipes should have been replaced years ago. The infrastructure in New York City and across the country must be shored up to meet the demands of the 21st century. For too long we have ignored our aging bridges, underground water systems, gas lines and electrical grids.
The suffering from loss and injuries of loved ones has been painful to all New Yorkers. Our first responders were heroic in their efforts to rescue people trapped in the building, extinguish the fire and prevent further damage. It should be noted that both New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio provided immediate assistance to all that were affected.
This catastrophic gas explosion was caused by poor and outdated gas pipe systems. According to the Center for an Urban Future’s recently released report, New York City’s gas mains are on average 56 years old, with most of them made of materials that are highly leak-prone. The City needs to plan for $47 billion worth of infrastructure upgrades by 2020 so tragedies as this one can be prevented in the future.
Our nation’s overall infrastructure is in dire condition also. For too long, Congress has ignored the urgent need to provide funding that directly impacts the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Before any other community across the country suffers great destruction, we must commit to shoring up our 20th century infrastructure in New York City and across the country.