You are here

11/25/18 Request for Clarification by the City of Ithaca Director of Code Enforcement Regarding Two Vastly Different Tompkins County Library Structural Conditions Assessments

Dear Mr. Niechwiadowicz:

Thank you for writing.

With all due respect, I do not believe that Ms. Kramer attributed "statements" to you, per se. She did, however, reveal information that you reportedly provided. Do you deny disclosing the overall train of events that she detailed below regarding the library condemnation? None of these matters were discussed at the public meeting, but key events were confirmed by public documents that were subsequently released.

I apologize for asking so directly, but months after the library condemnation occurred, the public is still largely in the dark about your decision-making in this major regulatory matter. That is why I write today to request that you clarify your involvement in this proceeding once and for all without any further delay.

In your 10/23/18 email, you wrote:

"When the County sold the Old Library to a private developer, the City Building Division became responsible for the code enforcement. The Building Division was concerned about the condition of the building since we knew it was left vacant for a long period of time. A preliminary inspection confirmed those concerns so the new owner Travis Hyde Properties had a licensed structural engineer inspect the property. This inspection revealed that there were unsafe structural conditions in the building. At that point the Building Division took action and condemned the property (emphasis added). This is consistent with the way the Building Division has handled other vacant properties."

With all respect, I believe that we now know your statement did not fully reveal what had happened because there were two "Structural Conditions Assessments" that apparently reached totally different conclusions for reasons that are unknown. This is the source of widespread public confusion and grave public health concern.

The original August 8, 2018 "Structural Conditions Assessment" concluded:

"Overall, the existing metal deck is a hazard in its current condition. It will continue to deteriorate and fail, especially if it remains for another winter season. Personnel and equipment should not be allowed on top of the roof for fear of falling through. Generally speaking, the interior of the building can still be accessed until the first snow in 2018 (emphasis added). After that, the condition of the roof deck should be reassessed when there is no snow on the roof before people are allowed back in the building."

This "Structural Conditions Assessment" does not appear to support your statement that there were "unsafe structural conditions in the building" because it determined that, "the interior of the building can still be accessed until the first snow in 2018." Thus, there was no evident need to stabilize the roof at that time.

First and foremost, would you please explain if I am somehow misunderstanding this seemingly clear-cut and straight-forward conclusion?

If I am not, would you please explain why you apparently did not accept this finding from a Professional Engineer licensed by the State of New York pursuant to strict ethical requirements?

This is a paramount concern because this original "Structural Conditions Assessment" presumably would have allowed a May 4, 2018 state-mandated proposed asbestos abatement project to be carried out well before the first snow fall. I believe all the asbestos removal efforts would have been conducted within the interior of the building without any need to work on the roof deck.

For reasons that you should clearly explain, the August 8, 2018 "Structural Conditions Assessment" was revised in order to reach a completely different conclusion than the original finding:

"Personnel should also not be working under the roof deck given the obvious deck failures and rusted metal deck debris observed where it had fallen to the first floor. It is my understanding that abatement work would involve removing the ceilings and utilities below the metal deck. Doing this work would potentially put personnel at risk of falling debris from deck failure (emphasis added)."

This revised conclusion was not rationalized or documented by any additional site inspection or investigatory findings. Aside from the polar opposite conclusions, the two "Structural Conditions Assessments" are virtually the same, word for word.

The Revised August 20, 2018 "Structural Conditions Assessment" was sent to you as part of a request from the developer for your approval of a controlled demolition with asbestos in place.

Would you please explain how the developer's request and the Revised Assessment came to be submitted to your office? This is extremely important because your favorable reply to this request allowed the developer to avoid undertaking an approximately $500,000.00 comprehensive asbestos abatement prior to the library's demolition and put the public at risk of a less protective asbestos abatement that generally should only be allowed for structures that are in danger of collapse.

I look forward to your response to this respectful request for important information regarding a matter of intense public health concern.

Thank you for your consideration.

Walter Hang

On 11/24/2018 1:50 PM, Mike Niechwiadowicz wrote:

Good Afternoon Everyone,

I have been with the City of Ithaca for almost 30 years and I have never had to write an email such as this one but Ms. Kramer has forced my hand. I must make it clear that I did not make the statements that Ms. Kramer attributed to me in her email. Those are her words and not mine. Some of the statements she attributed to me even contradict what I stated at the public meeting the evening of November 8th. I stand by what I said at that public meeting. Ms. Kramer attributing statements to me that I did not make is not only unacceptable, it is wrong.

I also want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you that have expressed your points of view that differ from mine, that have disagreed with my position and that have criticized me in an honest and respectful manner. It is important to me that you do so. Anyone that knows me knows that I encourage people to express opposing points of view; I believe it strengthens the end result. Dishonesty, insults and demeaning comments are a form of bullying and not the way to fight for what you believe. So once again thank you to all of you that choose honesty and respect over dishonesty. I pledge to always listen to you and do my best, within my legal limitations, to look out for your safety.


Michael Niechwiadowicz
Director of Code Enforcement
Building Division
City Hall 4th Floor
108 East Green Street
Ithaca, New York 14850
Phone: (607) 274-6508