Volume 17 • Issue 36 | February 4 - 10, 2005

E.P.A. to communicate more on Albany St.

By Ronda Kaysen

 The Environmental Protection Agency plans to dole out any information it gets about contamination at 4 Albany St. to Community Board 1.

Heeding concerns from local residents about possible contamination from the demolition of the Deutsche Bank-owned building, the agency will report any contamination alerts to C.B. 1 as it receives them. In a Jan. 19 closed meeting between representatives from the E.P.A. and C.B. 1, the two groups hammered out a plan to improve lines of communication should one of the monitors at the World Trade Center disaster-damaged building detect contamination levels that meet the E.P.A.’s work stoppage criteria.

“If there is an exceedence that’s not a blip, meaning there’s lead or asbestos and it’s going on for a few days, then we will need to notify people and give them the opportunity to decide what they want to do about it,” Madelyn Wils, C.B. 1 chairperson, said in a telephone interview. “If that should ever occur we would want to go on a building by building basis to notify people.”

Wils expects a notification process to be a joint effort between the board, the E.P.A. and the Downtown Alliance, a Business Improvement District.

Wils may be confident that the new E.P.A. measures will improve lines of communication between the community and the agency, but others are less optimistic. David Newman, an industrial hygienist for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a vocal critic of the 4 Albany St. demolition, was unaware of the new agreement.

“I speak to a large number of community activists on a daily basis, none of whom has mentioned any new provisions,” he said. “So I have to assume that community activists have not been included in the process and are not aware of it and that gives me pause.”

Deutsche Bank began demolishing the 10-story building in December as a condition of sale to developer Joseph Moinian. Because the company is not relying on public funding for the demolition, it is not obligated to participate in a public review process like the nearby Lower Manhattan Development Corporation-owned Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St.

Contamination monitors surround the building and sit atop its roof, alerting workers if contamination levels exceed E.P.A. standards. Deutsche Bank-hired environmental consultants send daily reports to the E.P.A.

At a Jan. 10 C.B. 1 meeting, board members and neighborhood residents expressed concern to Deutsche Bank representatives that no community response system was in place should a contamination crisis arise.

“We don’t have any information of what’s happening at 4 Albany St.,” Newman said. “They’re chugging along quite rapidly and we don’t know anything about their plans at 4 Albany St. There’s been no public process at all.”

There has already been one incident that stopped work at the site. On Jan. 7, the Albany St. monitor detected a lead exceedence, causing a work stoppage. Mary Mears, a spokesperson for the E.P.A. contacted Wils to alert her to the news.

“I went ahead and called Madelyn Wils and that’s when she and I decided we better formalize this more,” Mears said.

Work on nearby Con Edison wires, not the Deutsche Bank demolition, caused the lead exceedence.

Despite the new measures, Mears does not expect a major incident requiring an evacuation to ever occur because the numbers are based on a full year of exposure, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The likelihood that [an exceedence] would actually mean that a block would have to be evacuated is extremely slim,” she said.

Newman, however, is reluctant to trust the E.P.A.’s risk assessment. “I’d like to see their hazard assessment and risk assessment so I can evaluate [Meers’] comments,” he said. “I can’t evaluate them in the absence of information. Her characterization of the situation is not helpful in the absence of data.”


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