East Harlem Explosion Leaves Mixed Aftermath for Mexicans

Two articles in Diario de Mexico, both by Virginia Alvarado, found that in the weeks after the explosion by 116th Street and Park Avenue, things are slowly going back to normal as businesses reopen and customers return. However, for some residents, normalcy means being plagued by gas problems, which has been the case since well before the March 12 explosion.

In “NY Mexicans fear another tragedy,” two women reached out to the publication after notifying their landlord of a faulty gas problem but to no avail. And it’s not just the gas that’s being neglected.

Rosa Lopez (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

Rosa López (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

Two immigrant mothers sought help from tenants’ rights organizations in East Harlem to fix a problem they’ve had for months, not knowing how to solve it: the poor condition of their gas connection.

“We’re turning to Diario de Mexico because we’re afraid that some kind of tragedy will happen. We are immigrant families and we don’t know what to do. We’ve already told the landlord about the problem with the stove. The oven turns on without anybody touching it, but nobody comes to check on it,” said Rosa Ramí­rez, 28.

Not only do they face issues with gas, but other headaches as well such as lack of maintenance, doors missing from the cabinets in the kitchen and the bathroom, water leaks, and missing tiles in the shower.

On top of all that, they have to deal with cockroach and rat infestations in this building, located at 2243 1st Avenue between 116th and 117th streets.

Ramírez said she is worried about the situation in light of the recent explosion in East Harlem.

Rosa López, 28 and also a tenant, said the front of the building is also neglected; the windows are broken, and homeless people and drug addicts usually hang around and even relieve themselves.

Diario de Mexico witnessed one of these incidents firsthand when a homeless person peed in his pants in front of the residence.

Diario de Mexico referred this case to the organization Movement for Justice in El Barrio so they can help the family, and got in touch with Con Edison to report the problem with their gas connection.

Ramírez and López pay $2,500 in rent. The property still hasn’t been repaired.


Alvarado reports in “Customers return to East Harlem” that businesses in the neighborhood’s “Little Mexico” opened their doors again this past weekend.

As 116th Street reopened to traffic, Mexican businesses near the site of the explosion that happened on the tragic day of March 12 returned to normal.

Alfredo Refugio (left) and Roberto Costilla (right) hope that more people head to El Barrio. (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

Alfredo Refugio (left) and Roberto Costilla (right) hope that more people head to El Barrio. (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

“People started coming back to the businesses on Saturday,” Roberto Costilla, a Mexican man who runs Pequeño México, said optimistically.

Costilla explained that the businesses directly impacted by the explosion had to wait more than a week and a half to open due to the investigations and cleanup work.

Mexicans who shop in the neighborhood known as “Little Mexico,” given the large number of establishments that cater to the community, told Diario de Mexico that seeing the street open up convinced them to return to the area.

“I heard about the tragedy. I shop around here, but I didn’t come by because they told me it was closed due to the explosion,” said Alfredo Refugio, 38, from the Mexican state of Guerrero.

Other customers said they were glad to see that little by little, El Barrio is getting back on its feet.

“We come to El Barrio because we like the food here,” said Fernando Juárez.

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