You are here

Urgent Citizen Request for Investigation of Improper Library Condemnation

November 21, 2018

Honorable Barbara Underwood
New York State Attorney General
The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224-0341

Dear Ms. Underwood:

My name is Susan Attwood Kramer, and I live with my two children at 4__ North Cayuga Street in Ithaca, NY. My husband and I also own property across the street from the former Tompkins County Public Library located at 310-314 North Cayuga Street.

I write today to support this Request That the NYS Attorney General Investigate a Potentially Improper Condemnation of the Asbestos-Contaminated Tompkins County Public Library Based on a False Instrument Prohibited by the NYS Penal Code

I believe I can shed important light on this matter that has previously not been publicly disclosed.

The City of Ithaca's Director of Code Enforcement, Mike Niechwiadowicz, spoke to me personally on two recent occasions to confirm that he knew that his condemnation of the library would enable the developer to forgo the removal of asbestos containing materials at a cost of approximately $500,000 and allow for an immediate controlled demolition with asbestos in place.

I spoke to Mike after a 11/8/18 public meeting and during the day on 11/19/18, when he indicated that despite an agreement made at the public meeting to explore the possibility of shoring up the library to allow the condemnation order to be lifted and the asbestos to be removed prior to demolition, the demolition would begin as planned, possibly as soon as the day after Thanksgiving.

Mike feared that if the developer Travis Hyde were burdened by the asbestos removal expense, the developer might abandon the project, and the building would then continue to deteriorate and become a liability for the city. Mike said that because his main objective was to have the building “gone” ASAP, he needed to help fulfill the developer’s request for the controlled demolition with asbestos in place.

He also offered his opinion that there was not much difference safety-wise between controlled demolition and full containment and removal prior to demolition. I responded that controlled demolition with asbestos in place was allowed only for buildings in danger of collapse; NYS code requires the removal of asbestos containing materials prior to demolition because this method is far more protective of public health.

Mike said that the original 8/8/18 engineer’s Structural Conditions Assessment lacked explicit evidence that the building was unsound enough to warrant condemnation and was therefore useless. In order to spare the developer expense and to permit the desired demolition, Mike would have to intervene.

He told me his intervention was as follows: because the first Structural Conditions Assessment did not indicate that entering the building to perform the mandated abatement would be unsafe--quite the contrary, in fact--Mike made clear that in order to justify condemnation, the engineer must alter this report explicitly to mention a safety concern. The engineer did so, resulting in the revised 8/20/18 Structural Conditions Assessment submitted with Frost Travis’ letter to Mike requesting controlled demolition.

As I recall, Mike said words to this effect: “You know that last paragraph in the revised version? The first version didn’t read that way at all. We needed the engineer to add all that stuff about the decking debris compromising worker safety. Why? Because that building needs to come down--as soon as possible!”

I believe my conversations with Mike raise grave concerns that his actions involve the submission of a false instrument prohibited by NYS law. I request that your office investigate this matter without delay.


Susan A. Kramer

PS My phone is -- should you wish to discuss this matter further.