A Coney Island photographer took this set of photos around 9 am this morning of men at work on the roof of Thor Equities-owned Henderson Building. The former music hall where Harpo Marx made his stage debut is at the corner of Stillwell and Surf, directly across the street from Nathan’s Famous. What are Thor’s masked men up to? Asbestos removal or demolition? If it was not demolition work, but asbestos abatement, does yellow caution tape protect the public from inhaling asbestos fibers and dust? Look at the photos and decide for yourself. And check out a photo of the building taken two weeks ago when the brickwork was still intact.
When the demo crew saw the photographer taking pictures, they started scrambling around, hiding their faces, and calling on their cells. Fortunately they were too far away to make a grab for his camera, which is what happened to another photographer at the Bank of Coney Building in June.
Inspector #1027 from the City’s Department of Buildings responded to a complaint of “unsafe/illegal/mechanical demo” and had this to say in his report: “NO VIOLATION WARRANTED FOR COMPLAINT AT TIME OF INSPECTION. NO DEMOLITION WORK NOTED.” Okay, DOB, we get the message, you don’t have to scream at us in all caps.
Last time we posted about “Thor’s Coney Island: Demolition Under the Radar?” about Thor’s property at 12th St and Surf, the DOB’s assessment was frustratingly similar “NO VIOLATION WARRANTED FOR COMPLAINT AT TIME OF INSPECTION. NO DEMOLITION WORK NOTED AT TIME OF INSPECTION, NO WORK NOTED.” We were told the inspector has to see the violation happening before his own eyes, or there’s no violation!
Ironically, the demolition comes at a time when there’s fresh hope of saving these historic buildings. On August 12, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation wrote Save Coney Island that “the historic core of Coney Island appears to meet the criteria for listing to the Registers as a historic district.” State and National Register listing would make the buildings eligible for hefty tax credits, but unlike City landmarking, doesn’t protect them from Thor’s hammer. In a David vs Goliath moment, Save Coney Island’s Juan Rivero called on Joe Sitt to be a hero and redevelop Coney Island in the right way. We’re not exactly holding our breath, but after a hiatus of more than a month (it’s been an incredibly busy summer for those of us who work in Coney!), ATZ is back with a vengeance. On Aug 13, the DOB issued Thor permits to demolish the Bank of Coney Island as well as the Shore Hotel. According to the ominously worded documents: “This job is not subject to the Department’s Development Challenge Process. For any issues, please contact the relevant borough office.” Huh?
Save Coney Island posted a statement on their website: “Workers were seen and photographed this morning (Monday August 16) on the building’s roof using mechanical equipment to remove bricks from the top of the façade of the 1899 Henderson Music Hall, where Harpo Marx made his stage debut with his brothers Groucho and Gummo. Thor does not appear to have acquired any permits for this sort of work. According to the New York City Department of Buildings website, no new permits have been issued for the Henderson building in the past several years.Moreover, there was no scaffolding or sidewalk shed present to protect pedestrians during the demolition work.”
The building is slated for demolition this fall and asbestos abatement appears to be underway though the photographer did not see any permits posted this morning. The permits for this type of work are issued by the City’s Department of Environmental Protection, not the D.O.B, and are not listed on the City’s website. Back in June, when Thor did asbestos abatement on the Bank of Coney Island we wrote:
We’re shocked that the City has issued permits to Thor Equities for pre-demolition asbestos abatement during Coney Island’s summer season. Couldn’t Joe Sitt be persuaded to wait till October to get on with his dirty work of demolishing the historic buildings that he owns in Coney Island? Is the City monitoring the air around the doomed Bank of Coney Island or leaving it up to Thor’s team to keep us safe from inhaling asbestos fibers and dust? Here’s where we start to be concerned.
We’re still concerned. The issues we brought up in “Thor’s Coney Island: Caution! Asbestos Removal at Doomed Bank” (June 14, 2010) and “Thor’s Coney Island: Demolition Under the Radar?” (July 1, 2010) have been ignored.
UPDATE August 22, 2010:
Looks like they’re removing roof mastic or sealant from the parapet coping. The usage of HEPA-filtered respirators and disposable coveralls give the impression that these activities involve removal of asbestos (mechanical removal, dry scraping ?)
The concrete block, bricks, equipment, tools, or even the hazardous material itself could fall, creating additional issues. The yellow caution tape below does seem inadequate for the potential risks associated with these activities. Also, doesn’t appear that the workers are being monitored for possible contaminant exposure (asbestos?) which is usually required for OSHA compliance, even for outside roof work.