New York City

December 19, 2013

Facing Suit, City Agrees to Remove Mold in Public Housing More Quickly

Source: The New York Times, December 17, 2013
Posted On:

The New York City Housing Authority will deal more quickly and more thoroughly with mold in its apartments as part of an agreement by the Bloomberg administration to settle a federal lawsuit by people living in housing projects and coping with asthma.

Lawyers for the residents accused the agency of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by allowing mold to persist, exacerbating the respiratory ailments of residents. Since Hurricane Sandy, mold has become more common in public housing. But even before the storm, tenants had long complained that maintenance workers failed to identify the leaks and other sources of moisture that cause the mold. Instead, the workers clean off walls and ceilings and repaint, and the mold often returns.

Since notifying the city of their intent to file a class-action suit, lawyers for the tenants have been negotiating a settlement. The agreement is expected to be filed in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday, shortly after the lawsuit is filed. The settlement will require the authority not only to remove the mold but also to fix leaks, insulate pipes and address other sources of moisture. The agency will be required, in most cases, to fix the problem within seven to 15 days following a work order.

The agreement covers all of the more 400,000 tenants in public housing. But it requires housing officials to recognize asthma as a disability and to make accommodations for tenants with the condition. For example, the authority could be expected to relocate a person with asthma and his or her family to another apartment, or to use low-toxicity fungicides or to allow extra air-conditioning units in apartments.…

December 19, 2013

Contractors and Workers at Odds Over Scaffold Law

Source: New York Times Online, December 17, 2013
Posted on:

In 1885, as new engineering inventions were ushering in the era of the skyscraper, lawmakers in New York State enacted a law intended to safeguard construction workers who were finding themselves facing increasing dangers while working at ever-greater heights.

That measure, which became known as the Scaffold Law, required employers on building sites to ensure the safety of laborers working above the ground. Since then, some form of the legislation has remained on the books despite repeated attempts to repeal it.

But a lobby of contractors, property owners and insurers has in recent months renewed a campaign against the law, arguing that no less than the future of the state’s construction industry is at stake.

They argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth.

On Tuesday, a coalition of contractors, including a newly formed alliance of firms owned by women and minorities, announced the start of an advertising and lobbying blitz in Albany and New York City. But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers is pushing back just as fiercely. The law, they argue, is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.…

December 2, 2013

Radiation Cleanup at Park on Staten Island to Take Years

Source: New York Time Online, November 25, 2013
Posted on:

The first sign that something was amiss at Great Kills Park, on Staten Island, came in 2005 when a police flyover of New York City detected a positive reading for radioactive material there.

The finding, part of a counterterrorism search, did not come as a complete shock. After all, the 488-acre park was the depository for 15 million cubic yards of fill in the 1940s and 1950s, including medical and sanitary waste. The fill was dumped across wetlands to turn marshy areas into usable recreation space. Some of the waste, it turned out, contained radium, a naturally occurring element that was also used for decades in medical treatments, toys, cosmetics and even toothpaste.

At first, the source of radiation appeared to be confined to a small area behind a parking lot next to a field popular for flying model airplanes. The National Park Service, which operates the park, quickly fenced it off. But in the years since, further investigations by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers turned up more hot spots and a fuller, more disturbing picture.

“As we’re getting through this tough job, we’re finding that the contamination is not only in these discrete pockets, but is dispersed in the soil and also at the surface,” said Kathleen Cuzzolino, an environmental protection specialist for the Park Service.

This fall, after another flyover and years of excavations, the Park Service acknowledged that the contamination was more extensive than had originally been believed. Indeed, more than half of the park has shown some degree of radioactivity – virtually the entire area containing the historic fill. Park officials have fenced off 260 acres, including four ball fields, the model airplane field and a popular trail along Hylan Boulevard. Everywhere are signs proclaiming “Danger: Hazard Area.”…

November 25, 2013

Carlstadt-South Hackensack berm the subject of Sandy damage lawsuit filed by property owners

Source:, November 21, 2013
By: Meghan Grant

A group of four property owners, including Cheridan Realty LLC that owns a commercial building on Commerce Road, are suing the owners of the Kane Tract in Carlstadt, claiming improper berm construction was to blame for the severity of the damage suffered due to Hurricane Sandy, a storm experts called unprecedented.

Owners of two Little Ferry garden apartment complexes, Williamstowne Manor Inc. and Liberty Bell Village, Cheridan Realty LLC and one Hackensack apartment building, Albarelli Hackensack Associates, and its insurance company, Greater New York Mutual Insurance Company filed the lawsuit, which names 10 governmental agencies and companies as defendants – the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC), EnviroFinance Group LLP, Earthmark NJ Kane Mitigation LLC and others.

The Kane Tract

The Richard P. Kane Natural Area, the 254-acre section of wetlands on the Hackensack River in Carlstadt and South Hackensack is home to two berms, one of which gained notoriety during Sandy due to an initial emergency report being issued the night of the storm surge that a levee allegedly was breached, later identified as a berm.

The lawsuit, identifying the Kane Tract by name, builds upon the conviction that the berm had broken. It alleges contractors took shortcuts in their building of the berm that put neighboring properties at risk and state environmental and land agencies were lax in their oversight.…

October 31, 2013

State sues to recover cost of cleaning up Hempfield site

Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 30, 2013
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Three companies that stored materials at a Westmoreland County scrap processing site between 1940 and 1970 owe the state about $2.3 million for cleaning up hazardous materials that seeped into the ground, the Department of Environmental Protection says in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The substances found on the 16-acre Everglade Iron and Steel Company site in Hempfield included lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit seeks to recover cleanup costs from CBS Corp. of New York City, TDY Industries of Pittsburgh and Timken Co. of Canton, Ohio.

Spokesmen for Downtown-based Allegheny Technologies Inc., the parent company of TDY Industries, and Timken declined comment.

CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs said the company tried to reach a settlement with the DEP before the lawsuit was filed and still hopes to reach an agreement. CBS’s involvement in the site is tied to the operations of Westinghouse Electric Corp., she said. Westinghouse bought CBS in 1995 and renamed itself as CBS Corp. in 1997 after selling many of its non-broadcast operations.…

October 28, 2013

Policyholders: Beware of Choice of Law Provisions

Source: Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C., October 2013

New York District Court Applies “No Prejudice” Rule to Late Notice Claim for Policy “Issued and Delivered” Outside the State with NY Choice of Law Provision

A New York federal district court applied the antiquated “no prejudice” rule to an insured’s late notice claim in Indian Harbor Insurance Co. v. City of San Diego, 2013 WL 5340380 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 25, 2013). The insurance policy in question was issued in Pennsylvania, delivered to the policyholder in California, and insured risks located in California. The policy contained both New York choice of law and forum selection clauses. In holding that the insurer had no duty to indemnify, the court held that only those policies “issued and delivered” in New York are entitled to take advantage of New York’s statutory “notice-prejudice” standard, which requires that an insurer show prejudice resulting from the policyholder’s late notice in order to deny coverage on that basis. Rather, the court held that foreign insurance policies with New York choice of law provisions are subject to the draconian common law “no prejudice” standard, under which an insurer does not have to show that it was prejudiced by late notice in order to deny coverage.

The Indian Harbor case involved three underlying pollution claims made against the California State Association of Counties and the City of San Diego (collectively “the City”). For each claim, the City failed to give timely notice to the insurer after receiving the claim. The insurer disclaimed coverage and sought a declaration that it had no duty to indemnify the City due to the late notice.…

July 30, 2013

$104.7M well-contamination judgment against Exxon Mobil upheld

Source: Business Insurance, July 29, 2013
By: Judy Greenwald

A federal appellate court panel has upheld a $104.7 million judgment for New York City against Exxon Mobil Corp. for allegedly contaminating city-owned wells in Queens with a gasoline additive from the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil said it plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Friday’s 117-page ruling by a unanimous panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in In Re: methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) products liability litigation, in October 2003, New York City sued Exxon and 28 other petroleum companies because of alleged injuries to its water supply from gasoline caused by the release of the chemical methyl tertiary butyl ether, the use of which New York state banned in 2004.

Treatment with the chemical “increased the oxygen content of gasoline and mitigated harm to air quality caused by automobile emissions, thereby furthering the goals of the Clean Air Act,” said the ruling. “Because of spillage and leakage for gasoline stored in underground tanks, however, MTBE-treated gasoline was released into the ground, contaminating groundwater supplies.”

Throughout the next year, the city amended its complaint to include 26 additional petroleum company defendants. All the defendants except Exxon Mobil settled before trial, according to the ruling.

2009 ruling

After an 11-week trial, in October 2009, a federal jury found Exxon liable for failure to warn, negligence, public nuisance and trespass, but acquitted it on liability on design defect and private nuisance charges.

The U.S. District Court entered a $104.7 million judgment against Exxon Mobil and its units. In appealing the court’s ruling, among other arguments, Exxon Mobil said the city’s common law claims are pre-empted by the federal Clean Air Act.


April 10, 2013

Fracking Moratorium Top Priority in NY

Read here about some top priorities, including a fracking moratorium, that have been set in NY by environmental and public interest groups.


April 5, 2013

Toward Resilient Architectures 2: Why Green Often Isn’t

Source:, April 4, 2013
By: Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros

Something surprising has happened with many so-called “sustainable” buildings. When actually measured in post-occupancy assessments, they’ve proven far less sustainable than their proponents have claimed. In some cases they’ve actually performed worse than much older buildings, with no such claims.

A 2009 New York Times article, “Some buildings not living up to green label,” documented the extensive problems with many sustainability icons. Among other reasons for this failing, the Times pointed to the widespread use of expansive curtain-wall glass assemblies and large, “deep-plan” designs that put most usable space far from exterior walls, forcing greater reliance on artificial light and ventilation systems.


Before its cancellation, the Anara Tower was planned to be one of Dubai’s tallest buildings, and an icon of sustainability — despite its west-facing glazing, high embodied energy in materials, and, remarkably, a giant non-functional (i.e. decorative) wind turbine. The building offered the consumer packaging of an “image” of sustainability at the apparent expense of real sustainability. Illustration by WS Atkins PLC.

March 6, 2013

Oil Leak in NYC Awaits Cleanup

Read here about an underground oil leak in New York City that awaits cleanup.