The Villager: Chelsea will not be cowed by violence: Johnson

September 22, 2016

September 22, 2016

Less than a week after the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on Lower Manhattan, Chelsea was rocked on Saturday evening by the explosion of a small but powerful bomb on W. 23rd St. near Sixth Ave.

The device detonated in front of 133 W. 23rd St., near Selis Manor, a residence for the blind. Thirty-one people were injured, with 24 of them treated at area hospitals, mostly for fairly minor shrapnel wounds, and quickly released. One man reportedly had two of his two of his teeth knocked out.

After the blast, a second pressure-cooker-style bomb was found Saturday night nearby on W. 27th St. by a block resident, and removed by police before any damage was done.

On Monday, police arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, after a gunfight in Elizabeth, N.J., in connection with the Chelsea bombing. He has also been connected to another explosion earlier on Saturday on the Jersey Shore that was intended to hit a Marine Corps charity run. Police found still more pipe bombs atop a trash can at the Elizabeth train station, which they also have tied to Rahami. His family runs a fried-chicken place in New Jersey, and he was the counterman.

According to news reports, the suspect — who is originally from Afghanistan and is a naturalized American citizen — has a hatred for gays, the military and Western culture, in general. He had made several trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, during which he reportedly became more religious and radicalized.

Following the Chelsea blast, top city officials were quickly on the scene to reassure the public, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

The next day, de Blasio was joined by Governor Andrew Cuomo and local elected officials in touring the area and checking out the damage to nearby shops and buildings — mainly blown-out windows. They inspected a small, mangled dumpster on W. 23rd St. inside which the bomb had apparently been left.

Joined by de Blasio, local politicians — including Councilmember Corey Johnson, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Borough President Gale Brewer — visited Selis Manor and also the Malibu Diner, among other locations. The diner provided free meals to Selis Manor residents and first responders in the wake of the bombing.

On Tuesday, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also visited the Chelsea site.

Following the explosion, Councilmember Johnson issued a strong statement, saying Chelsea is unafraid.

“The people of Chelsea will not be cowed by acts of violence and intimidation,” Johnson said. “When faced with challenges, we come together as a community and emerge even stronger.”

Law enforcement is continuing the investigation into Rwahami and the explosions.

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