UPDATED: Work at rumored homeless shelter site in Glendale may have disturbed asbestos, residents say

Photo: Councilman Holden’s office

The city Department of Buildings (DOB) has confirmed that work on a defunct Glendale factory was not outside the bounds of the existing permit on the site, but Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmation is still pending that no asbestos was disturbed during work on the building to convert it into an office building after a Tuesday morning inspection.

Multiple city agencies were investigating allegations that workers illegally removed asbestos material from 78-16 Cooper Ave., which was long rumored to be a potential homeless shelter.

That plan may be a step closer toward becoming a reality. In August, the owners of the building submitted an amendment to their application to include a “transient lodging house” which has not yet been approved, according to a DOB spokesman.

The DOB said they have not received specific floor plans for review on the amendment yet, but that the owners hoped to build a facility to accommodate about 100 beds.

Holden’s office, however, has said the DOB informed him of an issue with their records and this amendment goes back to August instead of January which the DOB confirmed.

Video surfaced on the Glendale Civic Association Facebook page on Monday night that depicted two individuals who claimed to be “from the community” confronting a worker who had been supposedly removing floor tile from the site.

The worker who was questioned seemed unaware there was asbestos at the site, but said floor tiles and other features of the building being removed were being hauled off in a “special container.”

Councilman Robert Holden is working with the city Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Buildings to find out if asbestos was in fact disturbed during the work. The councilman reported on Jan. 15 that a stop-work order had been issued at the site, but DOB said there is not an SWO currently.

“Last night, Glendale residents noticed workers at the property and expressed their concerns by contacting my staff and I, and submitting 311 complaints,” Holden said on Jan. 15. “One of my staff members went to the scene last night, and I stopped by the site this morning when NYC Environmental Protection was responding to the situation. After placing several calls to the commissioner’s office, the DEP has informed me that a stop-work order was issued until test results confirm whether or not asbestos was disturbed by the workers.”

According to the DOB website, a complaint was issued on the site said that work was being done without a permit and workers were ordered to stop at about 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 14. The site, however, does not yet indicate any issuance of a stop-work order.

“At the warehouse, 78-16 Cooper Avenue, tonight there was illegal abating of asbestos going on,” Mike Liendo posted to the Facebook group. “Floor tiles were being ripped off the floors. New studs and sheet rock appear to have been put up. With the eyes and ears of residents who are very concerned, they communicated with the right people to get us out there to video these workers working in the warehouse. Meanwhile they are not supposed to be working after hours or even be there because the permits were lifted.”

In September and October, Holden discussed the effort to turn the Cooper Avenue site into a new school, which he said the city Department of Education was tentatively on board with.

This was pitched as an alternative to the city Department of Homeless Services’ proposal to place a homeless shelter there — something that the community has fought for years.

The DEP completed a study of the site and told QNS in October that some asbestos abatement had been ordered for the building, and it could be occupied as long as the remaining asbestos was not disturbed.

“Samples taken of disturbed pipe insulation from inside the building, on the first floor, tested positive for asbestos and a clean-up was ordered,” a DEP spokesman said in October. “The roof also has a stop-work order pending the owner bring in a certified asbestos investigator (CAI) to do an assessment.”

An earlier version of this story said the DOB received the amendment for a “transient lodging house” on Jan. 5; QNS has now been informed by Holden’s office that the amendment goes back to August and only reflected January due to their records being moved to a new portal.