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De Blasio Announces New Measures After East Harlem Fire That Disrupted Metro-North Service

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio said new steps are being taken to ensure city-owned under elevated rail infrastructures are safe following a fire in East Harlem that snarled Metro-North service for days last week.

The new measures include a review and regular safety sweeps of city-owned or managed properties under elevated transportation areas as well as amending the lease agreement with Urban Garden Center, where the fire broke out last Tuesday.

"The city has taken swift and strong action and we're doing all we can to prevent incidents like this from happening again," de Blasio said in a statement. "We are ramping up inspections in the affected area and reviewing sites under critical infrastructure citywide to ensure New Yorkers' safety and peace of mind."

The garden center is located directly under the Metro-North tracks on Park Avenue near 118th Street. Investigators said the fire started when fuel was spilled on a hot generator while it was being refilled.

The blaze, which has since been ruled an accident, caused structural damage to a steel supporting column and three adjacent horizontal steel girders.

The mayor's office said the company did not have the proper permits to store large amounts of flammable material in the area.

PHOTOS: Fire Under Metro-North Tracks In East Harlem

As part of the amended lease, city agencies and the NYC Economic Development Corporation will be able to go into the business at any time in the event of an emergency or if they need to inspect or conduct repairs.

Officials with the MTA will also be able to go in any time they need to inspect or do repairs to its property.

The amended lease would also explicitly prohibit the storage of flammable gas and liquids, the city said. The garden center has two days to review the terms of the new lease, which city officials said was developed with input from the MTA and FDNY.

"The safety of the public and our vital infrastructure is paramount," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "The lease amendments offered to Urban Garden Center will allow this longstanding East Harlem business to remain in its current location while ensuring proper oversight to prevent incidents like this in the future."

Officials said the garden center was issued several summonses as a result of the fire, including unlawful storage, handling and use of liquefied petroleum gas, unlawful storage of gasoline in quantities requiring a permit and other violations.

Damage from the fire caused severe delays and limited service for Metro-North riders heading into and out of Grand Central for days.

Crews installed six steel beams to shore up a damaged center column beneath the viaduct holding the elevated tracks.

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