Questions Remain Unanswered Following Death of Dog on Clinton Street

86 Clinton St.

86 Clinton St.

Here’s an update on an incident we told you about the weekend before last — the death of a dog on Clinton Street.  The headline in the Daily News February 16 read, “Dog dies after being electrocuted by wire on the Lower East Side.”  According to the story, Con Ed concluded that Bella, an 11-year old pit bull terrier mix was killed as a result of some frayed wiring on a scaffold light at 86 Clinton St.  “The Fire Department shut the power off to the building,” the News reported. Days later, with the threat of lawsuits in the air, the situation has become less clear.

A spokesperson for Con Ed, Sidney Alvarez, now tells us the original report in the Daily News was inaccurate. Con Ed sent crews to the scene, and found no problems with its own equipment but spotted frayed wires alongside scaffolding put up by the property owner. Those wires were clipped and “made safe.”  But Alvarez said the utility is unable to say what caused the dog’s death.

Kelly Magee, press secretary at the Department of Buildings (DOB), said city inspectors were also on the scene and issued a violation to the owner because the sidewalk shed was not “grounded.”  She said DOB found that the “sidewalk shed did not meet safety standards under the building code,” and a partial stop work order was issued for “work not conforming to approved plans, (specifically) missing cross braces on the shed.” Magee added, “Property owners and contractors are responsible for ensuring that the sidewalk shed is maintained in a safe and lawful manner at all times.”

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86-88 Clinton, side by side buildings, were purchased last year by Seagram Properties for $8 million. A major expansion and renovation project has been ongoing for several months.  When contacted this past Friday, the property owner released the following statement:

…ownership was absolutely horrified to hear that a dog had died in front of the building. However, contrary to inaccurate media reports, the incident did not have anything to do with the building’s scaffolding or its safety lighting, located high off the ground. The scaffolding lighting was fully protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, a device that immediately  shuts off an electric circuit when it detects stray voltage. No fuse tripped at any time and workmen have been working daily on the scaffold without incident. Contrary to what was reported by media outlets, neither the Fire Department nor Con Ed shut off power to building and Con Ed did not contact building ownership at any time. A Department of Buildings inspector investigated the scaffolding and no fault was found with any wiring and no violation was issued for any electrical defective condition. We believe it is unfortunate that a Con Ed spokesperson should try and assign blame, when the more likely culprit would have been the Con Ed manhole cover or street lamp, both located directly in front of the building. We have complained to Con Ed in the strongest possible terms about their poor handling of the situation and have demanded that they re-check these sidewalk items to ensure the future safety of all our tenants.

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In response, Con Ed told The Lo-Down:

Our equipment was functioning properly.  We have no ability to determine what may have caused injury to the pet, but our crews did believe wiring on the scaffolding was in poor condition and took steps to make it safe.

In the Daily News story, the dog owner (who declined to be named) said, “We were entering the building when Bella started acting funny… She let out a cry. She didn’t seem to want to go into the building. Then she went into a spasm and just laid there.”  Bella was rushed to an uptown animal hospital, but it was too late. “The doctor said, ‘She’s gone,’”according to the owner.  Although she spoke with the News in the aftermath of the incident, the woman has declined to speak publicly about what happened since that time.

After Bella’s death, the New York Council of Dog Owner Groups issued this warning:

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Meanwhile, Con Ed is scheduled to appear before Community Board 3’s transportation committee March 11 to discuss the stray voltage issue.  The utility has a fleet of 15 mobile detectors.  If you discover a potential problem on the streets, you can call 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633). Con ed has starting using new signage to warn people about the possible dangers.

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NOTE: This story was updated 2/25/2014 after a Con Ed spokesperson contacted The Lo-Down. The spokesperson said the early statements attributed to the utility regarding the cause of the dog’s death were inaccurate.