Three buildings on Second Avenue in Manhattan collapsed after a gas explosion last March.

On Thursday, the NYPD arrested five people in connection with the East Village gas explosion that killed two people and leveled three buildings last spring. Four were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors said that the building owner’s greed and willingness to take shortcuts caused the loss of life.

At a press conference announcing the charges, Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said that the landlord at 121 Second Avenue was looking to cash in on skyrocketing rents in the neighborhood, as “financial incentives to take shortcuts has never been stronger.” From the New York Times:

Mr. Vance outlined a scheme as contemptible as it was craven, involving a crooked contractor, an unscrupulous plumber, a greedy landlord and her son — all so eager to get tenants into newly renovated apartments with the average rent running $6,000 per month that they were willing to cast aside any concern for safety.

Even in the last moments before the explosion, two of the defendants are accused of running out of the building without warning any of the residents or patrons inside a ground-floor restaurant or even calling 911.

“The individuals involved in the East Village gas explosion showed a blatant and callous disregard for human life,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an unusually blunt statement.

“We are heartened that today these defendants will be brought to justice and forced to answer for their criminal actions,” he said.

The building owner, Maria Hrynenko, and her son, Michael Hrynenko Jr., were both charged with involuntary manslaughter, as were a contractor hired to renovate the six-story building’s apartments in 2013, Dilber Kukic, and an unlicensed plumber, Athanasios Ioannidis. Andrew Trombettas is also facing charges for supplying his license to Ioannidis.

Prosecutors say that the defendants created an illegal gas link, tapping into the line of the building next door, at 119 Second Avenue. “When greed guides the decisions and respect for human life doesn’t, this is the result,” the fire commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said.

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