Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article|
NYers Protest Downtown
By Margaret Ramirez,
Newsday Staff Writer, September 15, 2003
Anger about the air quality in lower Manhattan escalated
yesterday as a coalition of residents, office workers and health experts cited evidence
that asbestos and other toxins remain inside buildings at dangerous levels.
Robert Gulack, senior counsel for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said
environmental testing by a private firm in January found asbestos in the stairwell of the
Woolworth Building, which is across from City Hall. The firm reported 267,500 asbestos
structures per square centimeter, nearly 27 times the acceptable federal level. Recent
testing in March found more asbestos in an emergency stairwell used by SEC employees.
During a news conference at Federal Hall, Gulack, who has suffered repeated attacks of
bronchitis, believes the offices may have been recontaminated from dust that coated the
exterior of the building and was not cleaned until this month.
Last month, a report by the federal Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General
found that the agency misled New Yorkers on health effects of the air after the Sept. 11,
2001 attacks. Reacting to the report, Gulack called on the federal government to conduct a
comprehensive cleanup effort, to protect workers from any further health effects.
"They rushed us back into contaminated playgrounds and schools and places of
business. They took it upon themselves to decide what we would be told, and what might be
too upsetting for us to know. In that instant, the White House and the EPA became
accomplices of Osama bin Laden," Gulack said.
"All the areas impacted on Sept. 11 -- in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, in homes and in
offices, on the inside of and on the outside of buildings -- all of this must be, at long
last, properly cleaned up. It is time for all of us to demand the clean-up that ought to
have begun two years ago," Gulack said.
Last year, the EPA began a massive cleanup of residences near Ground Zero. But, several
public officials criticized the plan as limited because schools and office buildings were
not included in the plan.
Jo Polett, a lower Manhattan resident, said she was diagnosed with reactive airways
disease from World Trade Center dust in her apartment. She now takes four medications to
treat her illness.
"People are still being exposed right now," she said. "People are working
and going to school in buildings contaminated by dust from the collapse. The EPA needs to
come back and address this. They just want this to go away. They don't care what happens
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