Man killed in gas explosion told to clean up rubble : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Man killed in gas explosion told to clean up rubble The Associated Press 8/26/00 1:45 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- One day after a Brooklyn couple died in a gas explosion at their home, city officials fired off a letter to the dead husband insisting that he was responsible for immediately cleaning up the rubble.

The city Buildings Department apologized Friday for the mix-up, but a city councilman was still outraged by the letter sent to Leonard Walit, 72, who perished with his 66-year-old wife Harriet in the July 11 blast.

The form letter, sent out as standard procedure and signed by borough building commissioner Tarek Zeid, was addressed to Walit and instructed the dead man that his home at 420 State St. "must be repaired or demolished immediately."

The bodies of the Walits and a third victim were trapped for hours beneath their shattered four-story brownstone.

"The responsibility to take such action is yours, and because of the severity of the condition, the work must begin immediately," the letter continued. "If you fail to do so, the city will perform the necessary work and seek to recover it's (sic) expenses from you."

City Councilman Ken Fisher, D-Brooklyn, was appalled by the letter's callousness.

"How could you not know that Mr. Walit had perished in the explosion?" he asked. "This was not a normal circumstance and certainly deserved a response that reflected the tragedy involved."

Paul Wein, a spokesman for the Buildings Department, apologized for the error and offered his condolences to the Walits' relatives.

"They have suffered a great deal and we sympathize with them during their time of loss," Wein said. "Our actions were never meant to add to their grief, and we are very sorry."

The building owned by the Walits and an adjoining brownstone were reduced to rubble by the explosion, which was attributed to a leaky gas pipe.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 26, 2000

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