NYC Officials on Chelsea Explosion: We Don’t Yet Know Who or Why

NEW YORK -
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, walk near the scene of the explsoion on Sunday morning.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, walk near the scene of the explsoion on Sunday morning. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City officials have confirmed that the explosion in Chelsea Saturday night was a bombing, but have said that they do not yet know the person or motivations behind it.

“We know there was a bombing,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference Sunday afternoon, “but we have a lot more work to do to be able to say what kind of motivation was behind this – was it a political motivation, a personal motivation, what was it – we do not know that yet. That work must go on.

“We are going to be very careful and patient to get to the full truth here,” said the mayor. “We are not going to jump to conclusions; we’re not going to offer you easy answers. We are going to make sure we have all the facts.

“It’s going to take a lot of careful investigation to get to the facts and get to the truth.”

De Blasio, as well as the other law-enforcement and emergency officials who joined him at the press conference, sought to reassure the public that security will be noticeably heightened.

“You will see a very substantial NYPD presence this week; bigger than ever,” said the mayor. He noted that with the United Nations General Assembly beginning Tuesday, the NYPD presence would normally be expanded anyway, but that because of the bombing, “it will be even bigger now.”

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that “at this point, there doesn’t appear to be a connection” with a bombing in New Jersey earlier Saturday. But de Blasio noted that a connection “will continue to be considered” and that “we are not taking any options off the table.”

All 29 people who were injured in the blast have now been released from the hospital, noted FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. Moreover, the Fire Department has examined all buildings that were damaged in the blast, and they have been found to be structurally sound, he said.

O’Neill said that police are still gathering evidence at 23rd Street, the site of the blast, and that “some components indicative of an IED” were found. A secondary device – a pressure cooker with wires and a cellphone – was found later Saturday night at 27th Street, and the “bomb squad is in the process of working on the device.”

Officials are asking that anyone with information please call the NYPD tip line at (800) 577-TIPS.

23rd Street and 27th Street remain closed as the crime scene is processed; and 6th Avenue remains closed from 14th through 27th Streets, said NYPD Chief of Department Carlos Gomez, who succeeded James O’Neill in that position when the latter became commissioner on Friday. De Blasio said that the 23rd Street subway station, which did not sustain any damage but has been closed during the investigation, “will be up and running soon.”

Commuters can expect to see an expanded police presence in subway stations, said Gomez, including more cops, more bag checks and more K-9 units.

While O’Neill said that no individual or group has claimed responsibility, and the officials at the press conference generally emphasized that it is not yet known who is behind the bombing, William Sweeney, Jr., assistant director in charge of the New York division of the FBI, indicated law-enforcement officials may know more than they are letting on. “It is vitally important that we do not inadvertently disclose information that will inform the subjects,” said Sweeney, “and for that reason I do not expect to answer specific questions on how much or what we know.”

I want to “urge all New Yorkers to be patient as we get down to the bottom of what happened here. We want to be accurate – I think the most important thing is to bring to people a clear and accurate picture of what happened here, and obviously, to bring to justice whoever was involved in this incident.”