Buildings slowly reopening after steam pipe explosion in Flatiron District

FLATIRON DISTRICT, Manhattan (WABC) -- More buildings reopened Monday following last week's steam pipe explosion in Manhattan.

So far, the city says nine buildings are safe for people to come home to. There is confusion about which buildings in the Flatiron District are open and which remain closed.

The buildings cleared for occupancy are: 119 5th Avenue, 146 5th Avenue, 162 5th Avenue, 9 West 19th Street, 9 West 20th Street, 19 West 21st Street, 22 West 21st Street, 7 East 20th Street and 11 West 19th Street (which includes 17 West 19th, 10 West 20th, and 16 West 20th).

Photos from the scene of the explosion

Michael Priest was allowed back into his photography studio for the first time since the explosion down the block. In five days, he's canceled shoots and lost business.

As for his four full-time employees: "Still get their paychecks so Thursday, Friday, today, absolutely payroll comes up this week again," he said.

The city says at least 400 businesses have been directly affected by the crisis.

"We're going on five days of closure for some of these restaurants, fitness studios, nail salons, so that is a big issue," said Jennifer Brown of the Flatiron-23rd Street Partnership.

"We're open for our customers but if you have 40 buildings that are closed, that hurts business," said locksmith Neil Schneider of J&M Hardware.

Schneider is lucky. He never had to close, but with many of his customers locked out, his business is off 30 percent.

"Every day you're losing thousands of dollars. Five thousand, six thousand, it's horrible," said Melissa Magal of Gotan Chelsea.

Mere days away from opening her own restaurant in the zone, it's still off limits. But hard as it may be, she doesn't blame the city.

"We want to be there yesterday, yes but I prefer being there knowing my health and my customer's health is foremost important," she said.

"It's a little overwhelming," said area worker Kaitlyn Kilduff. "I don't know if I knew what to expect."

Kilduff returned to the office for the first time since an 86-year-old steam pipe exploded in the middle of 5th Avenue on Thursday morning.

"I do watch the news, so I knew there was going to be a lot going on down here this morning, but I wasn't expecting to see that," Kilduff said.

There's still a massive crater in the middle of the street with failing decades-old infrastructure now exposed.

Nearby, crews in full protective suits worked to scrub buildings and sidewalks of the asbestos-tainted debris that geyser of steam unleashed.

RELATED: Hazmat teams scrub sidewalks, hose down Flatiron buildings to wash away asbestos.

21st Street is back open to everyone, but only bus traffic is allowed down 5th Avenue.

"It's good news. It's showing that there's progress," said area worker Ronnie Gilbert.

Gilbert is happy to see traffic once again flowing, but many businesses were still closed for a fourth day.

There are also concerns about the compensation some neighbors are getting from Con Ed.

But Con Ed tweeted back, saying people could file claims for additional compensation.

Street closures/openings:

-18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd Streets are now open
-5th Avenue between 20th and 21st Street remains closed to all pedestrian and vehicular traffic - with the exception of MTA buses
-5th Avenue is now open to MTA buses
-Buses are bypassing all stops between 18th and 23rd Streets along 5th Avenue

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