Staten Island Asbestos Removal Project Leads to Arrests

Posted on July 7, 2015

The health and safety of residents near two different New York City Housing Authority complexes on Staten Island were jeopardized by an improperly managed renovation project. The project, fraught with fraud and violations of asbestos safety guidelines, resulted in five arrests and closure of the project.

According to a June 25 article in SI Live.com, renovation work at the Richmond Terrace Houses in New Brighton, and the Berry Houses in Dongan Hills, built in the 1960’s, required certified asbestos workers to follow specific asbestos disposal removal and disposal guidelines. The workers were tasked with roof, masonry restoration and asbestos abatement work at the buildings.

Unfortunately, an investigation conducted by the City of New York Department of Investigation found that the work was managed by a foreman who violated  NYC Department of Environmental Protection requirements, and was conducted by a team of workers who bought fake certification IDs.

The foreman was cited for failure “to maintain minimum safety standards and abide by recommendations of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection,” and for overseeing a team of workers who failed “to use water to wet down asbestos bricks before removal, failing to properly bag and seal broken down asbestos bricks, and leaving loose bricks of asbestos on scaffolds as said scaffolds were brought down,” reports SILive. The foreman was charged with criminal nuisance.

Four workers were charged with third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. They had obtained falsified OSHA safety cards.

SILive.com reports that the work has been halted and the project has been shut down.

“The project is shut down for asbestos work and we will schedule a meeting with the contractor, (construction manager) and air monitoring firm next week,” said NYCHA spokeswoman Yvette Andino.

Andino also said that the engineering firm that had been hired to monitor the asbestos work, “will be immediately fired, replaced and will not be allowed to work on any NYCHA projects.”

The city will now hire environmental inspectors who will perform random audits of the property to ensure correct asbestos abatement management.

Asbestos-containing materials were used in construction materials prior to the 1980s. Renovation work in older buildings must be carefully managed to ensure asbestos fibers are not released into the air. Inhalation of the fibers can lead to mesothelioma, a deadly cancer, lung cancer and other respiratory conditions and diseases. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, any amount of exposure of asbestos could lead to illness.

However, despite the mismanaged work and arrests, Andino said the project posed no threat to the health of the development’s residents, according to SILive.

In a June 2 speech at New York Law School, the City of New York Department of Investigation Commissioner, Mark G. Peters, addressed corruption and fraud in the city. He told the audience, in part:

“DOI’s work compels the City, at all levels, to wrestle with corruption, waste, and fraud in a consistent and real way. What we all know to be true today: beyond the sensational headlines, corruption has a real-world impact. It resonates far beyond its crimes, it cuts to the core of a government’s ability to do its job and undermines the public’s confidence in the City. Stopping, penalizing, deterring this type of conduct – and compelling governmental reform — is why DOI exists.”

Peters has shown, through this case and many others, that corruption and fraud will not be tolerated, and those involved will be penalized.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the City of New York Department of Investigation, the New York City Housing Authority and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

Photo Credit: SILive.com