UN, Belated Asbestos Warning by Fallen Ceiling, Photograph's Deletion
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, July 30 -- For days on the UN's third floor a patch of
fallen ceiling has been roped off with yellow police tape. Still, on
July 29 Inner City Press witnessed families with strollers walking
feet away from the police tape, touring the UN. On July 30, seeing a
workman with what appeared to be a gas mask on probing at the ceiling
with standing on a ladder, Inner City Press took a photograph.
official of the
UN Capital Master Plan rushed over to Inner City Press and asked why
the photograph was taken. The safety measures used by the UN workman,
under a ceiling hole by while unprotected visitors and children
passed only a day earlier, seemed of potential news value. The
official went back over to the roped off area and returned with the
workman. "You have to delete the picture," the workman
said. "You took it without my permission." He grabbed for
pulled back and explained that since the UN is a public institution,
the work done with public money, in an area with even outside
visitors were permitted less then 24 hours earlier, the photograph
would not be deleted. The workman retorted that he is not a UN employee
but rather a contractor. (Click
for Inner City Press' previous exclusive story about the UN's
asbestos contractor, ATC
Associates which has been hit for Clean Air Act violations).
The Capital Master
Plan official escorted Inner
City Press down to the office of the CMP in the basement of the UN's
library, to speak with CMP director Michael Adlerstein.
Tour of UN with roped off area and kids, July 29, 2009
In front of
his ample office with its views of the East River, a receptionist
asked, Is this about up there, the third floor? It's related, the
receptionist said Mr. Adlerstein is in a meeting, Mr. Adlerstein
can't be bothered. Inner City Press left a business card, if any
legal reason for deleting such a photo existed.
UN workman, with protection, under same ceiling, July 30, 2009
to the yellow police tape around the work area, now with what
appeared to be air testing machines buzzing, was added an additional
red emergency tape with the word "ASBESTOS."
is that the City of New York has already barred school children from
being taken on tours of the UN"s Conference Building, including
the third floor area at issue. It is not clear why children,
including in strollers, still passed by the fallen ceiling on July
29. The CMP's
many assurances that all asbestos work is being done in
a safe manner appear to be called into question by the amateur and
fashion that the fallen ceiling on the third floor has been handled.
slated to give a "Town Hall meeting" for UN Staff on July
31. After his spokesman excluded Inner City Press from a prior such
meeting, Adlerstein told Inner City Press is can attempt future Town
Hall meetings. Watch this site.
* * *
UN, With Asbestos Unsealed in Library, Interpreters Fight UN Capital
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, May 28 -- At the UN, asbestos removal has begun in
Headquarters library, with doors unsealed between the asbestos and
where UN staff are working. While experts tell Inner City Press these
conditions would not be accepted anywhere else in New York, or the
United States, since the UN is international territory, the proximity
of asbestos and unprotected workers has taken place this week.
closed door meeting with UN interpreters concerned about conditions,
the UN's and its contractors' defense is that workers are protected
by "negative pressure." Some predict a boomerang-ing of
this negative pressure against the asbestos removal.
is part of the UN's Capital Master Plan, whose director Michael
Adlerstein reported met last week with UN interpreters who are
worried about working in the Security Council once the rest of the
building is emptied out and the asbestos work is going on. The UN's
asbestos contractor, ATC
Associates which, as Inner City Press
exclusively reported, has been hit for Clean Air Act violations,
a representative named Roney Rivero to the meeting, who is reported
to have said there is no link between asbestos and cancer, while
speaking of negative pressure.
interpreter who works in the Security Council, speaking on condition
of anonymity due to fear of UN retaliation, predicted that while for
now UN staff are subjected to asbestos, when it becomes clear to the
member states' Permanent Representatives who serve on the Security
Council, especially the Permanent Five, how the abatement and removal
are being done, "there will be big changes. Even though we're
there more than the Perm Reps, they're more sensitive, you know."
in the UN Library, where staff continues to work, asbestos removal
has been done on the first and second floors, where the UN Staff
Union complains that the abatement equipment remains stored, and
where, they say, there is a film of dust on many surfaces. Asbestos
work is slated for the third floor of the library this coming
Entrance to UN Libary, notice says "Call 311," the City of New York's #
the UN's noon briefing on May 28, Inner City Press asked Deputy
Spokesperson Marie Okabe for the UN's response to its staff's concern
about safety. Ms. Okabe said that Adlerstein and the UN have "every
confidence" in those doing the work, despite the
litigation against both ATC and general contractor Skanska. She
Adlerstein would hold a Town Hall meeting with staff on May 29. Video here,
from Minute 15:33.
his last "Town Hall" meeting, Adlerstein's spokesman had
Inner City Press removed from the meeting, saying it was closed to
Press coverage. After the meeting was over, Adlerstein said that the
next Town Hall, Inner City Press could attend. We'll see.
CMP's Adlerstein had claimed that asbestos related charges against
the UN's general contractor, Skanska, has all been dropped. Later he
conceded that a civil case remains ongoing against Skanska, from
alleged deficiencies in asbestos work on a courthouse in California.
Adlerstein also acknowledged that people injured by asbestos or
Skanska will not be able to sue in U.S. court, but only to arbitrate.
Could that explain the lax practices exhibited in the UN library this