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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner O’Neill, and Commissioner Nigro Hold Press Conference Regarding Explosion in Chelsea

September 17, 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio: We are going to provide an update. I want to go over a couple of key points, and you are going to hear from NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro. We will be joined momentarily by FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney who will be available for questions.

Tonight New York City experienced a very serious incident. All elements of our first responders have been a part of the operation here: NYPD, FDNY, Office of Emergency Management, obviously our federal partners, FBI and others working with us. So all hands are on deck. Injuries are significant. You will hear from Commissioner Nigro on the details of the injuries. But at this point we can confirm that none of those injured are likely to die.

We also want to be upfront saying that there is no evidence at this point of a terror connection to this incident. This is preliminary information. It’s something we will be investigating very carefully but there is no evidence at this point of a terror connection. I also want to affirm that based on what we know at this hour, there is no specific connection to the incident in New Jersey. It is again too early to say anything definitive on those questions, but there is no specific evidence of a connection at this point. I want to say more broadly, there is no specific and credible threat against New York City at this point in time from any terror organization. So as we are analyzing what happened here, we are doing against the backdrop but we have no credible and specific threat at this moment. But we do want to be very clear, the early indications – the initial indications is this was an intentional act. We are going to have a lot more to say in the coming hours as we have more – a detailed analysis – but we believe at this point in time this was an intentional act.

I want to assure all New Yorkers that the NYPD and all other agencies are at full alert and that our anti-terror capacity in particular is at full alert, our Critical Response Command and our other key units, our Strategic Response Group, our Emergency Services Unit – all are on alert and all are dealing with this situation and being vigilant all over the city at this point in time. And we have in this city the most advanced anti-terror capacity of any city in this country and obviously the largest police force of any city in the country – all ready to ensure our safety.

Now, I want to be clear whatever the cause, whatever the intention here, New Yorkers will not be intimidated. We are not going to let anyone change who we are or how we go about our lives. We have the best police force in the country and a number of other key agencies, FDNY, OEM, etcetera making sure we will be safe. We are at this point of course tracing every lead and every potential – it’s too early to give you any details of the investigation because it has just begun over the last few hours. I want to say up front we are not going into a lot of details about what we are finding so far. It is an investigation that will take certainly a few more hours before we can give you more. But, we do want to urge all New Yorkers, anyone who may have information related to this incident, anyone who is an eyewitness, anyone who may have video, the NYPD needs that. Please reach out immediately if you have any information that we can use, call 1-800-5-7-7-TIPS, 1-800-5-7-7-T-I-P-S, if you have any pertinent information.

Finally, a second site as we speak, is being treated by NYPD. It is 27th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. There is an investigation underway and a substantial NYPD presence on that street and that street has been cleared as this investigation continues. With that I want to turn it over to Commissioner James O’Neill.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill: Thank you Mr. Mayor. At approximately 8:30 this evening, officers from the 10th Precinct ground patrol, driving westbound on West 23rd Street when they witnessed a large explosion – in front of 1-3-1 West 23rd Street. The officers immediately called for additional units and ambulances. The NYPD Bomb Squad and the FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force were requested to respond.

As of this time, the exact cause of the explosion has not been determined. The investigation into this incident is active and at this time an extensive search is being conducted. As the Mayor spoke, there is an ongoing situation on 27th Street right now. The area around the explosion site is being treated as a crime scene. As of this time there is no evidence to indicate that this explosion is the result of any natural gas cause. Again, the exact nature and cause of this explosion has not yet been determined. As of the most recent information, there have been 29 injuries reported. One of these injuries may be considered serious. Commissioner Nigro will talk about that in a couple of minutes.

The Fire Department is currently assessing the extent of any possible structural damage resulting from this explosion. And as further information is developed, we will provide it and give you updates. Commissioner Nigro.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Well our units heard this actually from their locations and joined the NYPD members on the scene, searched the buildings that were affected and as Commissioner O’Neill said there were 29 injuries here, one considered serious. Twenty–four of these people have been transported to area hospitals with various degrees of scrapes, abrasions from glass, from metal. Thankfully, none of these are life-threatening injuries and the 24 patients that have been removed are not in serious condition, other than the one patient with a puncture.

Mayor: Thank you very much, Commissioner. Okay, we will take your questions now.


Question: Was there a bomb in a dumpster, Mr. Mayor?

Mayor: Again, it’s too early to determine specifically what the incident was caused by. What we’re telling you this evening is we believe it was intentional. A full investigation is under way. As soon as we are able to determine what specifically caused this explosion, we’re going to report that to you.

Question: Mayor, you said that you don’t believe that there’s a connection to terror [inaudible]?

Mayor: Very broadly, I’m going to stay broad on that point and Commissioner O'Neill can jump in at any point. Because we have no credible and specific threat, because there is nothing specifically linking what we’ve seen so far of this site to anything that suggests terrorism. But it’s very [inaudible] information. We just want to assure new Yorkers – based on what we know at this moment – we do not see a link to terrorism. This is going to be an ongoing investigation.

Question: Do we see any connection with the timing of this incident to the timing of United Nations General Assembly?

Mayor: It’s too early to say.

Question: [inaudible] explosion was outside on the street or [inaudible] on the side of the road?

Commissioner O’Neill: Right now, preliminarily, it appears that the explosion was outside on the street. If anyone’s got any – hold on one second, hold on – right now it appears that the explosion took place outside on the street, and if anybody’s got any information they need to call 1–800–577–TIPS.

Question: Commissioner, you have this on video. What does the surveillance video show you and how does it inform what you’re telling us this evening?

Commissioner O’Neill: We do have video, and we see the explosion, and we’re going to use that to help us in our investigation.

Question: Are people still evacuated from buildings? Are people allowed back in? [inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: We think at this point there is no need to evacuate anybody from that building. We do have traffic – we do have streets closed from 14th to 32nd Street from 5th to 8th, and that’s just for traffic reasons.

Question: [inaudible] possible IED found [inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: On 27th Street? We’re still investigating that right now.

Question: It was an IED?

Mayor: It’s still an investigation.

Question: Can you talk about – I know you’ve got surveillance video. Can you talk about anything we may see? Was anybody walking or [inaudible] are you looking at anyone specifically yet?

Commissioner O’Neill: At this point, we are not, and we are in the process of collecting more video.

Question: Is there any evidence it’s an IED [inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: You’re going to have to speak up because of the helicopter.

Question: IED – what you do if it was an IED?

Commissioner O’Neill: We haven’t said that. We’ve said that so far at this point in the investigation it wasn’t caused by natural gas. We do think it was an intentional act. But this is all part of the investigation.

Question: [inaudible] Like the one in New Jersey [inaudible]?

Commissioner O’Neill: It’s too early to tell in the investigation. This happened about – less than three hours ago.

Question: We have reports of a suspect being questioned around 27th Street, can you confirm if anyone is being arrested or not?

Commissioner O’Neill: As far as I know right now, no one. We’re actively investigating the secondary device on 27th [inaudible].

Question: Is there some sort of device – what kind of object did you detect [inaudible] or find?

Commissioner O’Neill: Yeah we’re not going to go into that right now. As I said, we’re in the very early stages of the investigation.

Question: The 27th Street location, it seems like that would have been outside the area you initially secured. So what’s the assessment of the overall area? These three [inaudible]?

Commissioner O’Neill: Lester, that’s the process, right? We have the initial location, and part of what we do – we look for secondary devices, we start where the incident happens, we move to north, south, east and west as far as we need to.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: Yes it is.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: We spoke to that, we spoke to that.

Question: [inaudible] trash can or dumpster, what actually exploded?

Commissioner O’Neill: We’re still in the process of trying to figure out where the initial part of the explosion was.

Question: Mr. Mayor [inaudible].

Mayor: We’ll have more updates soon. Thank you.

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