NEW YORK —
Building Department records don't show any work in progress at either location, but the building that holds the church obtained permits to install new gas piping in June.
One resident of 1646 Park Ave., Eusebio Perez, heard news of the explosion and hurried back from his job as a piano technician.
"There's nothing left," he said by cellphone from a police barricade two blocks away. "Just a bunch of bricks and wood."
Perez, 48, said he shared an apartment in the building with a roommate and was unsure what his next steps would be.
"I only have what I'm wearing," he said. "I have to find a place to stay for tonight and organize what's going to be my next steps."
Eoin Hayes, 26, said the explosion shook his entire apartment building at about 9:30 a.m. He ran to the window and saw flames consuming one building and smoke rising into the air.
"I was in my bedroom and the explosion went off, it kind of shook the whole building," Hayes said. "You could feel the vibrations going through the building."
The explosion occurred very close to elevated Metro-North commuter railroad tracks. Metro-North service was suspended to and from Grand Central on all three train lines while employees remove debris from the tracks.
The fire department said it sent nearly 200 members to the scene.
Associated Press Reporters David B. Caruso, David Crary, Leanne Italie and Meghan Barr contributed to this report.