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Metro-North Sues Garden Center Over Storing 'Explosives' After Massive Fire

By Gustavo Solis | August 15, 2017 4:42pm
 The Urban Garden Center, the site of a May 2016 fire underneath the Metro North tracks, reopened after the fire. On Monday August 14, the MTA filed a lawsuit against the city and the Urban Garden Center asking the business to be evicted.
The Urban Garden Center, the site of a May 2016 fire underneath the Metro North tracks, reopened after the fire. On Monday August 14, the MTA filed a lawsuit against the city and the Urban Garden Center asking the business to be evicted.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

EAST HARLEM — Nearly a year and a half after a massive fire shut down the Metro-North and stranded commuters, the garden shop where the fire began is still storing "hazardous, flammable and explosive materials" under the Park Avenue viaduct, according to a lawsuit filed by Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Now the commuter railway wants to boot the nursery from its Park Avenue home, according to the suit filed on behalf of the transit agency.

The May 2016 fire was caused by a fuel spill and grew when it spread to propane, gas and other flammable chemicals in the Urban Garden Center’s storage area, fire officials said at the time.

The MTA’s lawsuit blames the fire on the city’s negligence and carelessness, specifically citing numerous fire and building code violations as proof that the city failed its obligation to inspect the area.

An employee at the Urban Garden Center referred questions to owner Dimitri Gatanas, who did not immediately respond to an email.

In 2014, the Urban Garden Center was one of several businesses that was heavily damaged and temporarily closed after a building explosion on Park Avenue near 116th Street.

The fire began during the weekday rush, prompting the MTA to cancel Grand Central service.

Metro-North has previously estimated the fire damage cost the railroad $2.4 million and that total ridership loss was more than 275,000.

In the lawsuit, which also names the city and the Economic Development Corporation as defendants, the MTA and Metro-North are asking for legal fees, punitive damages, and to have the court either evict the Urban Garden Center or order them to remove the flammable material. 

The lawsuit does not specifically say what the material is and an MTA spokeswoman declined to comment citing a policy against commenting on pending litigation.