Domino’s Greek Tragedy

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 9.06.07 PM

By Albert Goldson

If the NY Insulation workers in hazmat garb on the Domino complex in the infamous early April video were indeed performing asbestos removal, they certainly weren’t following industry or NYS/NYC protocol to protect public health. This hazmat removal method could represent gross negligence because voluminous quantities of dust were stirred up in an open air area caused by the ripping and sledge hammering of possible carcinogenic laden material, essentially a dirty bomb rooftop party. If the removal of alleged hazmat occurred in broad daylight on a rooftop, just imagine what is being done indoors out of public view and in the executive suite.

Asbestos, a Greek word meaning “inextinguishable,” has been used as
building material since the Holy Roman Empire because of its heat and
fire resistant properties. Its peak use in the US was between 1930 and
1970. According to the US Geological Survey the US continues to
legally import asbestos annually primarily from Brazil, the third
largest asbestos producer in the world. From January to July 2012,
over 1,000 metric tons were imported. Interestingly, the US stopped
producing asbestos domestically since 2002.

Asbestos particulates lodged in the lungs can result in Mesothelioma.
It’s an aggressive cancer whose only cause is from asbestos. There are
no safe levels of exposure and it often takes decades for symptoms to
develop. This danger includes “take home” exposure caused when someone
tracks residual asbestos on their footwear or clothing into the home
exposing one’s family.

In the pursuit of obscene profits, real estate developers have no
qualms about utilizing the most cost-effective methods to renovate
industrial buildings. It’s profit maximization through excessive cost
cutting by hiring non-union workers and performing hazmat removal
methods that flaunt safety codes at the expense of public health.

Such an example is subcontracting a firm such as NY Insulation that
was debarred and cannot perform work with any other NYS government
agency. Notwithstanding they were hired by Two Trees, a high-profile,
deep-pocket private firm.

One cannot shame or embarrass powerful real-estate developers. Even
negative publicity is a minor irritant because they shroud themselves
in Teflon tailored by public relations firms. The only way to get
their attention is to disrupt their construction critical path. The
critical path is a series of deadlines to complete specific phases
before the next one can be undertaken. The shorter the critical path,
the greater the cash flow. Hazmat removal is one of the early phases
on this critical path. For mega-projects like Domino any critical path
delay is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars which reduces
their profit margin.

After Domino is gutted and renovated, it will be described as a
fully-restored, classic masterpiece with Great Gatsby amenities for
sky-is-the-limit prices. Domino is the ultimate Williamsburg trophy
project and Two Trees will certainly profit big-time whatever the
final outcome with respect to development. The key is whether they can
step up ethically and become socially responsible to the community by
contracting qualified and credible firms to perform the necessary

With the mayoral campaign in full swing, this is the opportunity to
grill the candidates on their proposed policies on protecting public
health by ensuring that hazmat removal meets government requirements.
Equally important is whether the candidates have any conflicts of
interest such as their sources of campaign financing that may
compromise their ability to stand up to real estate developers who
engage in questionable practices.

—Albert Goldson is an Architectural & Engineering Contract Manager specializing in transportation megaprojects, energy, and urban planning. He is a long-term Williamsburg resident, an internationalist, and avid jazz aficionado.