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Records: 1 building in explosion had unrelated violations, 2nd had gas work done

NYPD officers respond to a building explosion in

NYPD officers respond to a building explosion in East Harlem the morning of Wednesday, March 12, 2014, that left two women dead and injured more than 20 others. Rescuers searched the debris to locate more possible victims, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Credit: John Roca

One of the East Harlem buildings reduced to rubble Wednesday in a fatal explosion has a history of code violations that authorities classified as maintenance issues. Officials said they were unlikely to have contributed to the gas leak, fire or blast.

The second building toppled in the explosion had gas work done several months ago, a representative of its owner said.

The building where the fire originated, 1646 Park Ave., was cited in August 2008 for "several vertical cracks" in the rear exterior wall that were "hazardous for the safety of the structure," city Department of Buildings records show. It was still not in compliance.

Acting Buildings Commissioner Thomas Fariello, at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio, described the violation as a "failure to maintain the building . . . nothing gas-related or plumbing-related."

The building also has 60 open violations with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, that agency's records show.

A Housing Preservation and Development spokesman said the building's most recent violations are maintenance issues, and that a broken electrical outlet cover, obstructing bars and carbon monoxide detector violations aren't classified as immediately hazardous.

The building is owned by Kaoru Demler Muramatsu, property records show. Her daughter said she also owns the piano store on the building's first floor. Muramatsu does not live in the building, but was talking with police to locate the tenants Wednesday night, her daughter said.

A second building involved in the explosion, 1644 Park Ave., had received a Buildings Department permit in June for installation of 120 feet of piping to supply gas from a meter to a fifth-floor stove, records show. New York Heating Corp. in Brooklyn was to do the work, but a company employee could not confirm the work was done.

Carmen Vargas-Rosa, financial officer of the Spanish Christian Church, which owns the building, said there was gas work done about five months ago.

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