You are here

Commissioner Reardon Please Rescind an Improper Condemnation of the Former Tompkins County Public Library and Issue a Stop Work Order Due to Multiple Failures to Fulfill 12 NYCRR Part 56 Requirements

Honorable Roberta Reardon
Commissioner of Labor
New York State Department of Labor
Building 12
W.A. Harriman Campus
Albany, NY 12240

Re: Request That You Rescind an Improper Condemnation for 310 - 314 North Cayuga Street, Ithaca, NY and Halt Demolition Work Because Requirements Pursuant to 12 NYCRR Part 56 Are Not Being Fulfilled


I write respectfully to request that you immediately rescind an improper authorization for a controlled demolition with asbestos in place at the above-referenced site because applicable requirements pursuant to 12 NYCRR Part 56-11.5(1) for building condemnation were not fulfilled.

Given that the job site is located immediately adjoining a densely developed residential area along a major thoroughfare near the heart of downtown Ithaca, NY, I request that you also issue an urgent Stop Work Order because wetted asbestos-containing demolition waste and equipment decontamination requirements are clearly not being fulfilled.

Urgent Action Required Because More Than 40,000 Square Feet of Confirmed or Presumed Asbestos-Containing Materials is Documented Inside Library

I believe that halting improper demolition at this site is imperative because the abandoned library was documented in 2014 to have more than 40,000 square feet of confirmed or presumed asbestos-containing materials, including massive friable asbestos. Moreover, the report concluded that, "The sprayed on fireproofing could not be fully quantified (bold and underscore are emphasis added herein within quotation marks)."

See: Microbac Phase IA Pre-Demolition Asbestos, Lead Paint and PCB Survey Report, Former Tompkins County Library Building, December 2014

Critical Part 5611.5(1) Condemnation Requirement Not Fulfilled

First, per 56-11.5(1): "A building or structure may be ruled structurally unsafe by a licensed Professional Engineer, Registered Architect, Building Inspector, Fire Inspector or other official of competent jurisdiction. The official shall attest to the condition of the building/structure in writing."

This mandatory requirement was not fulfilled for the above-referenced site. In fact, a licensed Professional Engieer twice declined to declare the library to be "structurally unsafe." There also was no evidence whatsoever that the building was in danger of imminent collapse.

On August 8, 2018, a licensed Professional Engineer with the firm Ryan Biggs wrote,

"There are reportedly hazardous materials (asbestos) in localized areas of the roof and ceiling. Since there are obvious signs of deterioration of the metal roof deck, the Contractor and Developer planning the demolition work would like to know if the building interior is safe to access..."

Given that his investigation was intended to determine whether the building interior was "safe to access," the engineer's original conclusion is beyond dispute:

"Generally speaking, the interior of the building can still be accessed until the first snow in 2018. After that, the condition of the roof deck should be re-assessed when there is no snow on the roof before people are allowed back in the building."

The City of Ithaca Director of Code Enforcement publicly stated that he did not accept the engineer's well-reasoned finding based on a close visual inspection.

The engineer submitted a revised August 20, 2018 version of his original "Structural Conditions Assessment" which removed his conclusion that "the interior of the building can still be accessed until the first snow in 2018" without providing any technical rationale based on additional inspection or investigation.

BUT THE REVISED REPORT ALSO DID NOT CONCLUDE that the building was "structurally unsafe" per the Part 56-11.5(1) requirement.

See: Clear documentation that the interior of the library was determined to be "safe to access" on 8/8/18 by a Professional Engineer from Ryan Biggs

Nevertheless, the City of Ithaca Director of Code Enforcement condemned the building per the developer's request and improperly cited the engineer's 8/20/18 letter.

See: City of Ithaca 310-314 North Cayuga Street Condemnation Order (9/4/2018)

See: Letter from Travis Hyde Properties and Ex Libris, LLC to Mr. Michael Niechwiadowicz, Director of Code Enforcement, City of Ithaca, August 23, 2018

As a result, I believe the City Director of Code Enforcement improperly condemned the building in order to comply with the developer's request for a controlled demolition with asbestos in place in order to avoid undertaking a $500,000.00 comprehensive asbestos abatement. I believe this action clearly does not fulfill the Part 56-11.5(1) requirement cited above. Moreover, it might involve a "false instrument" violation of the State Penal Code.

Please note that these findings are not altered by a recent Dende "peer review" of the Ryan Biggs "Structural Conditions Assessment" because it was conducted totally in the dark, did not involve any close inspection of the library roof and misrepresented the conclusion of the 8/20/18 Ryan Biggs Revised "Structural Conditions Assessment."

Critical Part 56-11.5(c)(8) Continuous Wetting of Demolition Debris Requirement Not Fulfilled

Per Part 56-11.5(c)(8): "Wetted Demolition Waste. The demolition waste shall be wetted on a continuous basis, that is, prior to, during and subsequent to its actual collection and removal. Fog nozzles or similar type of equipment shall be used to perform the wetting."

You can see for yourself that videos document this requirement is not being fulfilled. The demolition has been conducted at times with no water spray to hold down asbestos dust or is only intermittently wetted down by a tank truck that leaves the site every ten minutes or so to get more water. While the tank truck is gone, there is no wetting down of the deadly demolition debris. The library interior is also not wetted down when the demolition is not underway and is open to the elements.

See: Former Tompkins County Library Demolition With No Continuous Water Spray to Control Asbestos Fugitive Dust and

Former Tompkins County Library Demolition With Possible Asbestos Fugitive Dust Release

Critical Part 56-11.5(c)(5) Equipment Decontamination Requirement Not Fulfilled

Per Part 56-11.5(c)(5): "Equipment Decontamination. Equipment shall be decontaminated prior to exiting the regulated abatement work area, utilizing a pressure wash system, after which all exposed surfaces inside and out shall be wet wiped. The surface below the equipment shall be scraped or cleaned of any residual asbestos contamination. This material shall be removed and disposed of as asbestos contaminated material."

This presumably includes the water truck which leaves the site every ten minutes or so while demolition is underway.

You can see fugitive dust tracked into the street adjoining the entrance to the demolition site.

See demolition photos: 12/18/18 Former Tompkins County Library Demolition


I trust that my respectful request and clear documentation will be self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

For your information, there more than 840 signatories to a respectful: Coalition Letter Which Requests That Ithaca Mayor Myrick Require All Asbestos-Containing Materials to be Removed From the Former Tompkins County Public Library Building Prior to its Demolition

Thank you for your consideration and your public service.

Very truly yours,

Walter Hang
cc: Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Honorable Members of the Ithaca Common Council
Honorable Barbara Lifton
Honorable Thomas F. O'Mara
Honorable Members of the Tompkins County Legislature