In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the storied Strand Bookstore accuses utility companies and the city of New York of negligent behavior that allegedly caused a series of manhole explosions and fires in the early hours of March 31, 2017. The explosions shattered the Strand’s windows, forcing the business to close for the day and resulting in significant property damage and loss of income, according to the suit.
The explosions and fires occurred mostly on the street, but some took place in a subterranean structure operated by Con Edison, accused of negligence in the lawsuit. Verizon New York, who owned the manholes and underground vaults at the time of the accident, is also named, as is Empire City Subway (a subsidiary of Verizon that provides cable conduits) and the city of New York, whose street maintenance is alleged to have contributed to the explosions as well.
Strand subsequently filed an insurance claim with the city comptroller’s office in May of 2017, but alleges in the suit that “adjustment or payment by the City has been neglected or refused.” The claim examiner and comptroller’s office were not available for comment at the time of this story.
The famous bookstore, which once employed the likes of Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine, is seeking at least $160,000 in damages from the companies named and the city; Con Ed spokeswoman Joy Faber says they are “reviewing the claim and are in communication with the Strand’s insurer.” Nick Paolucci, a spokesman from the New York City law department, said the department will “review the suit and respond accordingly.”
The lawsuit comes after the January 3 death of Fred Bass at age 89. Bass, who was buried at sea in his Strand sweatshirt and will be honored with a public memorial tonight, co-owned the Strand with his daughter Nancy Bass Wyden, who is currently the owner of the bookstore.