THE HEZITORIAL INVESTIGATION: A Sad Telling in the City of Yonkers – Asbestos at Yonkers Fire Station 12 By HEZI ARIS

Hezi Aris Hezitorial 29 Comments

McGoey_Barry2012YONKERS, NY — February 17, 2014 — Yonkers Department of Public Works (DPW) workers were engaged in conducting minor renovations at Fire Station 12, located at 75 Fortfield Avenue, starting in the late spring, May 2013.  In addition to scraping and painting of walls, they also removed floor tiles from one of the floors.  They did not test for the presence of asbestos prior to doing the work (as they should have – standard procedure). No protective measures were undertaken to safeguard the workers; a responsibility demanded of DPW’s Joe Celli.  The Firefighters were never advised to avoid the area or to take precautions. The firefighters continued to sleep in the dormitories, utilize the bathroom for personal hygiene and exercise in the gym. Approximately six weeks after the work began, Yonkers Firefighters Local 628 became aware that asbestos may be present in the floor tiles and debris left in their quarters and that asbestos may have become airborne during the renovations.

Yonkers FF-Local 628-07012013-Door City duct-tapped to seal off the room where the asbestos was present“It is untenable that the City placed its employees at risk. Asbestos is a well known health hazard, so much so, OSHA advises there is ‘no safe level’,” asserted Barry McGoey (pictured), president of Yonkers Firefighters Local 628.

Several weeks after the work commenced, one of the DPW workers advised a Firefighter that no one should be using the rooms because asbestos debris was still present.  

“Not only were our firefighters and the DPW workers who removed the tiles put at risk, the City placed our families and the public at risk,” McGoey continued. “The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cautions that asbestos can be carried out into the public and into our homes on our clothing, bodies and items we may carry, and that exactly this sort of asbestos transport  has resulted in documented cases of asbestos disease and death.”

Upon learning of this, I.A.F.F. – Local 628 obtained samples of the materials and sent them to a lab for testing.  The results came back positive for the presence of asbestos at unsafe levels.  Local 628 provided the test results to the City of Yonkers (CoY) and City Hall conducted their own testing which corroborated Local 628’s findings; the test undertaken on behalf of CoY also came back as positive, unsafe, and at high levels.  The rooms were sealed off with duct tape and a warning sign which read,  “Do Not Enter!” 

After several weeks of no action, Local 628 filed a complaint with the New York State Public Employees Safety and Health Division (NYS PESH), a division of the NYS Department of Labor.  Nothing happened for several weeks.  

Approximately 5 or 6 weeks after Local 628’s complaint to PESH the CoY installed a double layer of plastic from floor to ceiling outside the affected areas and sealed the area so that it was less likely to contaminate beyond the area cordoned.  The next day, a PESH inspector arrived for his "unannounced" site visit and investigation.  The PESH inspector did not enter the affected rooms, and instead monitored the air outside the sealed off room for the presence of airborne asbestos.  The Department of Labor inspection found that asbestos levels outside of the cordoned area were within permissible exposure levels (PELs) but never inspected the area behind the plastic sheeting where the renovations took place and where debris was left behind. PESH did cite CoY for failing to maintain injury logs for the prior years, but did not cite CoY for violations of the PESH Act.

The failure by NYS to conduct an adequate and necessary inspection further compounded the health risks for the firefighters, their families and the public. “The NYS Department of Labor failed in its responsibilities and it adds insult to injury that they only issued a ‘nonserious’ violation to the City of Yonkers,” explained Richard Corenthal, of the firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C., legal counsel for Yonkers Local 628. “Not only are we seeking full and proper inspection, remediation, and compliance with the law, we are very concerned that this failure by the State will only encourage the City to circumvent proper employee protections in the future.”

Local 628 had a conference meeting with the CoY and PESH to review their findings.  Local 628 objected to the delay in the investigation process, specifically with respect to PESH giving CoY prior notice of the investigator's site visit, and for failing to cite CoY for violations of PESH and OSHA regulations.

Local 628 has filed an appeal with the NYS Industrial Relations Board.  

Local 628 has had to hire their own Industrial Hygienist to assist them with their complaint and appeal.  

Upon learning of the potential presence of asbestos, Local 628 immediately notified the City Fire Department that its members may have been exposed to asbestos for more than six weeks. The Fire Department responded by closing the door to the renovated area, applying duct tape and placing a do not enter sign. The City only tested for the presence of asbestos after the Firefighters independently secured testing for a sample of the questioned materials. Both analyses confirmed the presence of asbestos.

PESH was besides itself when they came to recognize Local 628 was committed to following up on their complaint.  PESH denied violating the PESH Act by giving CoY advance notice of their site visits; even so, it is obvious they did just that. Heretofore, CoY did nothing for over 3 months time, and then all of a sudden, the day before PESH arrived, they sealed the room off properly.  

Recognizing Local 628 was not recoiling for their complaint, PESH officials advised they were still investigating the exposures to the DPW workers who removed the asbestos and that they would most likely issue serious violations against CoY as a result of that investigation.  

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Yonkers Deputy Mayor Sue Gerry seem to have their fingerprints over this issue by the timeline to which PESH adhered. The probability of their interference vis-à-vis their Albany network to scuttle this investigation is plausible.  PESH should be a vehicle to protect public sector workers, not a tool for politicians to use for their own benefit. …And so the stomach turns.

Download NYS Department of Labor – Yonkers FD – Informal Conference Report – 2.11.14

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Hezi ArisTHE HEZITORIAL INVESTIGATION: A Sad Telling in the City of Yonkers – Asbestos at Yonkers Fire Station 12 By HEZI ARIS

Comments 29

  1. MoJo

    how’s carrot top on this matter? his side will soon be seen, whether he’s his own man or he’s owned by the man…being Spano, Cuomo, Spencer, etc.
    Time will tell Mclaughin!

  2. SOYO

    CityHall only cares about votes..that’s why SPANO went from Republican to Democrat for the votes. City workers are always left hanging onto the remnants and misfortunes of elected idiots and agendas.
    Look at all the school is disarray due to lack of regular maintenance. The excess costs get pushed onto us taxpayers…

  3. plus.google.com/102865305757161999839

    Do you really think anything is going to happen to the CoY crew think again.They just tossed out the IG for her investigation of the DPW.I bet she knows to much for doing her job time will tell.Lots of luck Barry and I hope no one is sick including the guys who did the removal.Most important let’s find out wear its illegally dumped.FAST

  4. Chuck Schumer is all over this already

    Chuck Schumer’s office has placed a call to the NYS Department of Labor inquiring why it took them so long to investigate the complaint. Keep a lookout for Chuck in Yonkers this Sunday because he’ll probably be having a press conference in front of Fire House #12.

  5. Speaking of Contracts

    Speaking of contracts, try this one on for size
    http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2014/02/de-blasio-administration-strikes-first-contract-deal-with-retro-pay-with-dep-c
    February 17, 2014 10:32 AM
    De Blasio Administration Strikes First Contract Deal — With Retro Pay — With DEP Cops
    BY Celeste Katz
    No Wake-Up Call due to the holiday, but here’s an exclusive I have running today:
    The de Blasio administration has settled its first labor contract, a quick deal with 200 environmental officers that could signal a smoother period of labor relations after the cold war between the unions and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
    NYC_DEP_Police.jpgThe officers, whose duties include patrolling the city’s watershed upstate, had been working without a contract for an astounding nine years. Under the new agreement, they will receive an average of more than $50,000 each in back pay.
    Kenneth Wynder, who represents the officers as head of the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association, praised the de Blasio administration for its “fairness.”
    “We got treated with respect,” he said. “We felt much better compared to the nine-year battle we had with the old administration,” he told the Daily News.
    Bloomberg left office on Dec. 31 without any of the city’s 300,000 unionized workers under contract, creating a major challenge for Mayor de Blasio. The city’s unions are demanding more than $7 billion in back pay, a sum that could break the city’s budget.
    The situation of the environmental officers, however, represented a special circumstance. Theirs was the only union that had not reached a contract with the city for the years 2005 to 2007. As a result, the terms of their settlement are not expected to set a pattern for the city’s other unionized workers, whose contracts expired beginning in 2008.
    The DEP officers are armed, and their ranks have doubled since the 9/11 attacks, when city officials took more seriously the idea that the reservoirs could be targeted by terrorists.
    The officers had been locked in a protracted dispute with the Bloomberg administration over whether its members should be treated on a par with other uniformed service workers — entitled, for example, to many of the same benefits as NYPD cops.
    Last year, arbitration and a court ruling went the union’s way, but the officers still could not strike a deal with the city.
    “It took several negotiations sessions with the old administration, 11 arbitration dates, a Supreme Court hearing and one final meeting in December to get nothing done,” Wynder said.
    Union negotiators sat down with city reps, including de Blasio’s new Labor Relations commissioner, Robert Linn (pictured), last Thursday. In a single session, they hammered out the agreement.
    It calls for raises of 5% for 2005 and 4% in both 2006 and 2007 — on par with increases given to city police in those years.
    The agreement also will double their differential pay for working nights to 10% from 5%, increase their annual uniform allowance to $1,000 from $250, and make them eligible for line-of-duty injury pay.
    The de Blasio administration failed to respond to repeated requests for comment

  6. whats holding up the contract ???

    the only thing holding up a contract is the firefighters having the balls to tell spano that his offer sucks and that he should shove it

  7. The red lie

    What a bunch of babies. I heard that the only thing holding up the contract its that the union wants to be able to reimburse the fireman for their mani/pedi’s out of the welfare fund!

  8. DPW workers are always treated like sheet

    What’s new? DPW workers have been treated like sheet by Spano for the last 2 years. Who cares if they are exposed to asbestos? Did their union Teamsters Local 456 look into this and past exposures? Do they even know about this or past exposures? What exactly do the DPW workers actually get for their union dues?
    The firefighters union on the other hand is always looking out for and fighting for the firefighters. I guess the City has just gotten used to treating their employees like sheet. Except of course for the firefighters who can dish it better than they take it.
    Now the taxpayers will sheet when they see what this is going to cost.

  9. Hardly a Silly Story Harvey...Spano

    Let’s see how silly this story is when the EPA comes to City Hall asking for the disposal records for the asbestos that has been removed from this building and from the numerous other illegal asbestos abatement projects that the City has conducted over the past two years. The story won’t seem so silly then Harvey…Spano

  10. Just asking

    DPW Joe Celi–this guy was fired months back for serious misconduct and has wrecked more than one city vehicle while DWI.Was fired and re hired WHY????
    Same with another DPW guy named DelBene who was running a limo business on city time..

  11. what will this cost

    Many of the older buildings may have asbestos, just don’t disturb it, or in the case of flooring put a new layer over it so it does not get airborne.
    This is basic stuff and part of the cost of doing business everywhere.
    I remember when my kids school was found to have one pipe with asbestos on it in the ceiling out of harms way, but guess what? They shut down the building one weekend and had it removed.
    Same scenario only this time just firefighters and maintenance workers whom the city does not appreciate at the current time so I guess it was something like “tell them to grow up” behind closed doors and now we will pay.
    Do it correctly for all or just don’t do it if you don’t know how.
    By the way, did the DPW union call for or have their own men covered with exposure reports? Did they also file with osha?
    Now what? because you did not run a $250.00 test it will cost taxpayers untold amounts.
    If it were the mayors office or the corp councils office or council presidents office and these tiles existed would you run the same removal protocol?

  12. Low level uneducated moron should be fired!

    Even day laborers know enough to stay away from asbestos! Whoever sent the DPW workers there without first checking out the job should be fired. Anyone with half a brain knows these buildings are old and loaded with lead, asbestos etc.

  13. Who was the moron who decided to remove the asbestos in the first place?

    Who was the moron who told the DPW to remove the asbestos tile? Must have been some low-level uneducated and inexperienced moron who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else.

  14. Burden of proof

    Once the fact that asbestos containing materials were removed is proven (which it has been through independent testing labs) then the burden of proof shifts to the City to prove the levels were not dangerous. Since the City did not monitor the air during the asbestos removal (because they violated the law and did not treat it as asbestos) the City cannot prove the levels were safe. In other words the City is screwed. And where was this asbestos dumped? Down at Van Cortland Park Avenue? With the household trash? Anywhere but where it should have been safely disposed of. I see lots of commas and zeros being written on checks. This city should be called ‘morontown.

  15. Union

    Oh please give me a break. I’m sure if there was any danger here the fire department would have passed along the findings of the air quality test that was taken. But guess what the levels of airborne asbestos were way below the acceptable amount so they just want to complain about something. Hezi demand proof of a report next time, your a joke.

  16. thereismore

    This story is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more buildings and firehouses that have asbestos products. These buildings are also currently being used by city personnel and the city knows it.

  17. Kahching

    McGoey knows the law and he will make Mike and Sue pay dearly. I don’t think this is going to stop here and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Preet is looking into Cuomo’s interference with the enforcement of federal OSHA regulations. NYS PESH gets paid by the Feds to enforce OSHA regulations of asbestos and other dangerous toxins. Looks like Andy or someone close to him (Larry) made a phone call to stall the complaint. This could make Chris Christie look slim.

  18. what will this cost

    Don’t you check before ripping up, this is not day laborers who are hiding from the public and don’t care what they handle.
    These are government employees that can cost us plenty if we do not follow the rules of conduct that government puts on the public also.
    Man oh man, here comes the bill.

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