Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the United Nations to Wall Street to the Inner City

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg AJE, FP, Georgia, NYT Azerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .


Follow us on TWITTER

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis



ICP on YouTube

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

After Sandy, UN Staff Left With Wet Rotting Paper, Dust Masks, No Haz-Mat Suits, They Say

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, UN staff were left “co-located” with wet and rotting paper, then made to work with dust masks while outside clean up crew members had full hazardous material gear.

  This, Inner City Press was told in real-time just after the storm. But it was finally raised to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon chief of staff Susana Malcorra, who passed the issues for response to the chief of Management, Yukio Takasu.

  Earlier today, Takasu gave the UN Secretariat's spin. Inner City Press has exclusively obtained and now published it:

From: USG Yukio Takasu
To: Barbara Tavora-Jainchill [Staff Union]
Cc: Catherine Pollard [OHRC], Jean-Jacques Graisse [DGACM], Kevin Kennedy [DSS], Dmitri Dovgopoly, Susana Malcorra [CdC]/NY/UNO@UNHQ
Date: 14/03/2013
Subject: Re: UN Staff working in potentially hazardous parts of the compound post Sandy

Dear Barbara,

1. Reference is made to the letter dated 20 February 2013 from the Chair of the United Nations Staff Relief Committee for the victims of hurricane Sandy in the City of New York and the Tri-state communities to you, which you shared with us by email on 21 February 2013.

2. I am pleased to provide the following clarifications to concerns raised in the letter:

3. The letter states that:

a. UN staff indicate that they were asked to perform cleanup and maintenance duties without proper protective gear and/or health and safety guidance, although black water and increasing mold spores were evident.”

Comments: On 2 and 16 November 2012, advice was communicated to departmental Executive Officers by the Director of Facilities and Commercial Services Division (FCSD), in conjunction with Medical Services Division (MSD), informing them of planning for temporary relocation of staff and clean-up activities, and providing instructions on the means of protection required for staff who needed to enter into any flood-affected area. This included use of eye protection, gloves and N95 masks as advised by MSD. This advice was further communicated by supervisors of the various departments to their respective staff.

b. Some staff also noticed that contractors, performing similar duties alongside staff, were wearing full protective hazmat gear and equipment.

Comments: As per normal practice, contractors from the professional cleaning company initially wore full protection gear; within a few days, however, it was clear that this was not required and they no longer wore this gear. It is emphasised that the level of protection recommended for our staff, i.e. N95 masks and gloves, was adequate for the risk.

c. One FMS supervisor finally held a first information meeting on 19 November. It was at that time that those staff were given one disposable face mask.

Comments: As noted above, the Director of FCSD communicated with departmental Executive Officers as early as 2 November 2012, which was repeated on 16 November 2012. This information was further communicated to their staff by DSS, DGACM, DPI and DM supervisors. .

d. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that wet and mold-laden paper and other material made hazardous by the storm had been co-located with staff. This persisted for several months until its recent removal.

Comments: One of the main concerns during the cleanup was disposal of damaged material. Early disposal of wet items was essential. While some of these items had to be retained pending validation for insurance purposes, specific areas were identified for storing these items so that drying was maximised, and the impact on clean areas and exposure of staff was limited.

e. Some staff continue to work in areas with moldy vents/shafts that have not been assessed or cleaned since Sandy.

Comments: The 3B area has been independently assessed as having clean air with spore counts well below limits required by local host country law, as communicated to departmental focal points on 21 December 2012 and confirmed again as recently as 27 February 2013. We have no knowledge of mouldy vents or shafts, and if the Staff Union has evidence of specific locations where this might be the case we would appreciate FMS being informed.

f. While many staff members of FMS visited the Medical Service immediately after the storm, other have also visited private doctors because they are already experiencing some health problems. Because of the potential for future problems, it is important to ensure that information regarding UN staff tasked with working in affected areas be properly documented. We have learned from other environmental disasters (nature or man-made), which resulted in the release of environmental toxins, adverse health effects may not manifest for months and sometimes years.

Comments: A total of fourteen (14) staff members approached the Medical Service in the aftermath of Sandy to seek advice. One FMS staff was provided restriction not to work in 3B. MSD has also confirmed that if staff entered the 3B areas, without the benefit of the protective equipment (gloves and masks), it does not automatically mean that they will have a problem. Most bacteria, molds and chemicals cause immediate problems, not problems that occur months or years later. Notwithstanding the above, MSD will be sending individual emails to those staff who are known to have been in the 3B area either for clean up or to retrieve their personal items, providing them this information and inviting them to visit the Medical Service should they have any concerns. A separate communication will also be posted on iseek for the general information of all staff.

5. Please rest assured that the safety of our staff is of primary importance to us, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that this is not compromised.

Yukio Takasu

   Is this acceptable? Ban has asked to meet with Staff Union officials next week. Some are refusing to go. Those who do, will they seek public retraction of the claim that New York UN staff are selfish? Will they address and rebut the above? Watch this site.

Share |

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

Click for re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-253, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-2013 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]