The giant crater left by an exploded steam pipe in the Flatiron District is being covered up with giant sheets — to keep cancer-causing asbestos fibers sealed in and prying eyes out, The Post has learned.
Con Ed workers are trying to mitigate the risk of more asbestos spewing into the air as they perform heavy excavating work in the ground at Fifth Avenue and 21st Street.
One employee said the plastic sheets were erected to “reduce visibility” and “decrease the chances of fibers escaping.”
“We don’t want people looking inside,” he said.
Con Ed spokesman Mike Clendenin said the sheets were up to protect potential gawkers from clogging up traffic lanes to catch a glimpse of the gaping 30-by-15-foot hole.
A hose connected to a fire hydrant blasts water onto the soil near the hole every 15 minutes to “wet down possible asbestos,” the worker said.
Tests for the toxic substance at the site are conducted constantly and on a daily basis, officials said.
Eight of the 45 buildings affected by the blast remained closed on Friday — 149 Fifth Avenue (a k a 921, 925 Broadway), 141 and 145 Fifth Avenue, 3 West 20th Street (a k a 156 Fifth Avenue), 137 Fifth Avenue, 133 Fifth Avenue and 129 through 131 Fifth Avenue.
The July 19 early-morning blast sent a plume of asbestos-laden dust into the air.
Clendenin said 300 reimbursement claims have already been filed by businesses and residents as of Friday morning.
One of them came from Big Slice Pizza of NY, which says it lost out on $20,000 in business and spoiled food after being forced to shutter for five days.
“This is a summer month so it’s slow. Losing five days on top of that is tremendous for us,” said manager Roy Sing, 41. “Because we didn’t have access, everything went bad. We had an incident where the dough rose too much and popped the fridge open.”