Co-Op City in New York Claims Asbestos Abatement Project is “Unnecessary”

Posted on February 25, 2014

floor tilesLawyers for RiverBay Corp., the management company of Co-Op City in New York, are pleading to the mayor to drop the requirements for continued asbestos abatement in the residential complex. RiverBay and the residents of the housing development within the Bronx have been forced to foot the over $5 million/year bill to remove asbestos from the area.

According to an article in the New York Daily News, a 2005 inspection identified “a benign form of asbestos in the glue” used to adhere the floor tile. The finding led the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to require the removal of the asbestos-containing material. However, the legal team reports that after nearly 75,000 subsequent tests, no further asbestos has been found.

“Now it is time for you, Mayor de Blasio, to do the right thing and immediately rescind the punitive directive requiring Co-Op City to abate an asbestos problem that does not exist,” RiverBay attorney Stephen Kaufman, a former state Assemblyman, urged in a letter to the Mayor this week, as reported by the Daily News.

DEP defines asbestos abatement as “any and all procedures physically taken to control fiber release from asbestos-containing materials. This includes removal, encapsulation, enclosure, cleanup and repair.” Asbestos is only shown to be a health hazard when it becomes airborne leading to inhalation of the fibers. Co-Op City representatives claim the asbestos is contained within the glue and is not friable, or in dust form, and therefore does not need to be removed. In addition, the lawyers claim even a fire would not break up the asbestos.

The Bronx Times reports that in December 2012, Co-Op City filed a lawsuit against the City of New York and the Department of Environmental Protection in an effort to end the abatement requirement. According to the directives from the DEP, each tile that is removed requires abatement processes, as well as air testing, slowing the process and significantly increasing costs.

Co-Op City was built in the late 60’s and early 70’s and is the largest housing development in New York City, with over 50,000 residents. The city, located within the Bronx, is powered by the Co-Op City Power Plant located within the complex that started operation in 1968. Construction projects during the 60’s and 70’s often used significant amounts of products made from asbestos including roofing and siding shingles, insulation, textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints, insulation and gaskets in hot water and steam pipes, in addition to vinyl tiles, vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.

Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to mesothelioma, an incurable cancer, lung cancer and asbestosis, scarring and hardening of lung tissue. Symptoms resulting from asbestos exposure often take decades to present themselves.

The Co-Op City mayor’s office had not yet replied to Kaufmann at press time.