Monday, November 18, 2019

Details on the guilty verdicts in the 2nd Avenue gas explosion case

[Image via the DA's office]

On Friday afternoon, a jury found landlord Maria Hrynenko, contractor Dilber Kukic and unlicensed plumber Jerry Ioannidis guilty of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and related offenses for their role in the March 2015 Second Avenue gas explosion that killed two men.

In addition, they were also found guilty of assault charges for injuries to 13 people in the blast that destroyed the buildings at 119, 121 and 123 Second Ave. between Seventh Street and St. Mark's Place.

Prosecutors said that an illegally installed gas line triggered the explosion.

The three will be sentenced on Jan. 10.

Here is the specific information on the defendants and their convictions via the DA's office:

MARIA HRYNENKO, D.O.B. 11/26/1959
Rockland, N.Y.

• Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 2 counts
• Assault in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 9 counts
• Assault in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 4 counts
• Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

Queens, N.Y.

• Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 2 counts
• Assault in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 9 count
• Assault in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 4 counts
• Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count
• Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 2 counts

DILBER KUKIC, D.O.B. 6/9/1975
Bronx, N.Y.

• Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 2 counts
• Assault in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 9 count
• Assault in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 4 counts
• Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

Michael Hrynenko Jr. was charged for his role in the scheme, but he died in 2017 before the case went to trial. He was 31.

Hrynenko, Ioannidis and Kukic face up to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter counts, according to the Daily News.

The Times provided the best recap from the two-plus-month trial:

Ms. Hrynenko who had taken over her husband’s housing stock after his death in 2004, hired Dilber Kukic, a general contractor, to renovate apartments at 121 Second Avenue in 2013. By the summer of the following year, Ms. Hrynenko had leased the apartments to 16 people, but Con Edison had not yet approved a new gas line.

Prosecutors said Ms. Hrynenko risked losing tenants and $24,000 in rent per month if she could not provide gas. That is when, prosecutors said, she devised a plan to siphon gas from Sushi Park, a ground-floor restaurant in the building to provide gas to the apartments above.


But, prosecutors said, the explosion in the East Village was the result of something else: a landlord’s greed.

“What was it that made these three defendants circumvent all the rules they were aware of?” the lead prosecutor, Rachana Pathak, said in her closing remarks this week. “Money, money, money.”


Jose Gomez, a cook at Sushi Park, said he had to crawl out from underneath a pile of debris. He said his eyes and ears are permanently damaged. A firefighter who had been injured while responding to the scene was forced to retire because of his injuries.

Randolph Clarke Jr., an assistant Manhattan district attorney, said the defendants “took a chance, they rolled the dice, and the cost was paid for by Mr. Figueroa and Mr. Locon and 13 others.”

In the days after the explosion, prosecutors said, Ms. Hrynenko did not tell investigators about the illegal gas line and she shredded nine garbage bags full of documents pertaining to her real estate business.

The landlord's greed — as the prosecution put it — was responsible for the deaths of these two men: Moises Locón, 27 ...

... and Nicholas Figueroa, 23 ...

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. provided this statement:

As construction and development continues to boom, today’s guilty verdict puts property owners, contractors, and managers on notice: my Office will pursue criminal charges against those who place expediency and financial gain over life and limb. I thank the jury and the tireless prosecutors in our storied Rackets Bureau for holding these defendants accountable for the tragic and preventable losses of Moises Locon and Nicholas Figueroa.

I also want to thank the Figueroa and Locon families, who demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience through the duration of this trial. While today’s result will not bring these young New Yorkers back, I hope the Figueroa and Locon families take a measure of comfort in knowing that this case will change the way that landlords and contractors do business in New York.

Meanwhile, construction of the condoplex on two of the gas-explosion lots continues. Workers have been quickly erecting the Morris Adjmi-designed building at 119 Second Ave. — officially 45 E. Seventh St. — that will feature 21 condo units and ground-floor retail. The new building will include a commemorative plaque that honors Figueroa and Locón.

Here's a look from Saturday...

Shaky Cohen's Nexus Building Development Group paid $9.15 million for the empty lots at No. 119 and No. 121 that Hrynenko owned.

In a transaction from late 2016, Ezra Wibowo paid $6 million for the adjacent property at 123 Second Ave. that was owned by a different landlord who had no role in the explosion. There isn't any development planned there for now, according to previous reports.

There are still civil actions making their way through the courts. Hrynenko and her companies have reportedly been hit with nearly 30 lawsuits.


Below you'll find a selection of EVG headlines about the explosion from the past four-plus years...

Previously on EV Grieve:
[Updating] Explosion on 2nd Avenue and East 7th Street

How displaced residents are faring after the 2nd Avenue gas explosion

Moving on — and feeling lucky — after the 2nd Avenue explosion

Updated: 2nd Ave. explosion — landlord, 3 others charged with 2nd degree manslaughter; showed 'a blatant and callous disregard for human life'

RIP Nicholas Figueroa

RIP Moises Locón

A family continues to feel the loss on 2nd Avenue

Remembering Nicholas and Moises: the Figueroa family marks the 4-year anniversary of the 2nd Avenue gas explosion

Exclusive: 2nd Avenue explosion sites have a new owner

LPC OKs condoplex for gas explosion site on 2nd Avenue and 7th Street

Dedicating Moises Locón Way and Nicholas Figueroa Way on 2nd Avenue at 7th Street

Report: Probation for plumber indicted in deadly 2nd Avenue gas explosion

Michael Hrynenko, Jr., awaiting trial for his role in the 2nd Avenue gas explosion, dies at 31

And read our interviews with two longtime residents who lost their homes in the explosion — Mildred Guy and Diane McLean.


Anonymous said...

My condolences to all the people whose lives were affected by the greed that brought about this tragedy of predatory capitalism. A relief to know those responsible where finally brought to justice.

Anonymous said...

Tragic deaths.
And although the principals have been convicted, luxury real estate interests still won as they were able to go ahead and build on the site.
A just result would have been rebuilding small buildings as affordable housing or a park for the community.

Anonymous said...

Those criminals will rot in jail for what they did. Families, lives, and homes literally torn apart for greed and money. What really gets under my skin is their craven behavior following this disaster. Disposing of incriminating documents? Showing no remorse. How low can you go? I cannot wait till Jan. 10th. I hope they receive the maximum sentence and lose every penny they have, which should be distributed to those whom lost their homes, businesses, and especially the parents whom lost their sons. It also breaks my heart to hear that those whom survived are now suffering with chronic pain along with the loss of essential body function as a result of this explosion. What a world. It really taps into the notion of how what one might perceive to be a harmless, minor, yet selfish decision actually carries a monumental effect with irreversible consequences. Perhaps the families of the fallen young men will have some closure on this unimaginable event.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning the Sushi person's health effects, too. Other survivors of the event also have lasting injuries. I personally know a businessperson or two in that block of Second Avenue who are still living every day with the physical and psychological repercussions. It's unfair that so many people suffer from others' greed.

I know, what else is new, but still.

Anonymous said...

Times' article also notes two others who were involved and pled guilty previously:

"Eric Pacheco, another unlicensed plumber, who pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree manslaughter."

(Pacheco's testimony was covered here: )

"Andrew Trombettas, a licensed plumber, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in January. Prosecutors said Mr. Trombettas sold the use of his credentials to Mr. Ioannidis, who had submitted work permits to the Department of Buildings and Con Edison." (Covered by Grieve in March 2019 )

Giovanni said...

Maybe while they’re in jail people should send them all postcards from faraway exotic locales, to remind them every day of the freedom they have lost.

I have a childhood friend who has spent half of his adult life behind bars, and every time it’s really nice outside or something great is happening in the world, I think about him and what he is missing. He blew his life away over a few stolen cars, illegal guns, and a few hundred cloned credit cards, which were the least of his many crimes. Now he begs his relatives to send him a few dollars in jail so he can buy stuff from the commissary, probably so he can buy protection from the guys who are less than half his age. .

Prison is such a giant waste of time. I will remember to enjoy every moment of freedom of while all these of these convicted felons are sitting behind bars.

Anonymous said...

My heart continues to break for all of the families of the victims. What an incredible loss. So much needless suffering. I hope they can heal from this fiasco.

Shawn said...

15 years for double homicide? Should be double that.