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Metro-North disruption prompts new safety sweeps

New York City will begin regular safety sweeps at city-owned property near elevated rail lines following the East Harlem fire that severely impacted Metro-North service last week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the New York City Economic Development Corporation will more closely inspect the dozen properties it oversees under elevated roads and rails to ensure the infrastructure is not jeopardized.

The move comes after FDNY officials determined that the May 17 fire at the Urban Garden Center, located under Metro-North tracks at Park Avenue and East 118th street, was caused by an accidental fuel spill. The garden shop had been storing gasoline and propane without proper FDNY permits, according to city officials.

“We are ramping up inspections in the affected area and reviewing sites under critical infrastructure citywide to ensure New Yorkers’ safety and peace of mind,” de Blasio said.

The Urban Garden Center is part of La Marqueta, the historic East Harlem marketplace that the city has recently begun reviving.

The MTA is responsible for inspections of the majority of under-track property. There are 84.5 miles of elevated track in the agency’s system — 70 that belong to New York City Transit, 12.5 miles belonging to the Long Island Rail Road and 2 miles of Metro-North’s. There are 150 properties under those tracks that the MTA leases to private entities.

The Urban Garden Center’s owner, Dimitri Gatanas, was not available for comment.

Also Thursday, the administration announced that landlords who let their government-subsidized tenants live in slum-like conditions won’t get paid.

De Blasio said the city would invoke a 1962 law that allowed rent to be withheld for programs such as Section 8 for conditions that are “dangerous, hazardous, or detrimental to life and health.”

With Matthew Chayes

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