Upper West Side Slumlord Pollution

With all the controversy and debate at the June 1, 2010 Manhattan Community Board 7 meeting about the bicycle lane on Columbus Avenue from 96th Street to 77th Street, there was little time to address a few other important issues. One Brockholst tenant emailed me one of several documents objecting to the proposed community facility in the cellar of the Brockholst building at 101 West 85th Street that was submitted to Community Board 7. Here is the first page:

Gulf Oil Spill on the Upper West Side for CB 7 June 1, 2010
Financing a Slumlord with Taxpayer Money Who Does Not Provide Essential Services and Pollutes the Environment

The owners of the Brockholst are planning to construct a Community Facility in the cellar. With landmark status, the building at 101 West 85th Street was originally built before 1900. It is a combustible brick and wood frame building using #6 Fuel Oil. There are two restaurants on the Columbus Avenue side with two kitchens as well as the boiler in the cellar of the building where, currently, there is not even a sprinkler system in place.

Burning #6 Fuel Oil creates “a rain of toxic soot that aggravates asthma, increases the risk of cancer, exacerbates respiratory illnesses and can cause premature death” according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s December 2009 study, titled: The Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health. The EDF study describes #6 Fuel Oil as “unrefined sludge laced with pollutants” and concludes that “Each gallon of No. 6 burned creates 18.8 times more soot (PM) pollution than No. 2 heating oil according to the EPA emission standards”.

Even the  NYC Community Air Survey Winter 2008-2009 issued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg office states that residential, commercial and institutional heating systems release 50% more fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and 17 times more SO2 than cars and trucks on New York City’s roads. The sludge-burning buildings in the city contribute 87 percent of the city’s heating oil soot pollution. There is proposed legislation to phase out the use of #6 and #4 Fuel Oils. Eventually, this dirty oil will be banned. The city is already converting some of its own heavy-oil-burning boilers to natural gas, after identifying 100 city school buildings burning No. 6 oil in neighborhoods with high asthma rates.

On the upper west side, the owners’ non-profit family trusts hold a total of 19 buildings under various DBA names with a total market value of approx. $2 billion. All boilers burn #6 Fuel Oil. With 1247 apartments and more than 300 HPD complaints, these buildings are burning approximately 776,511 gallons of #6 Fuel Oil, resulting in a huge failure to protect the community against toxic chemicals. In addition, the building owners and management only perform repairs relative to serious complaints of mold, heat and hot water, vermin including mice, rats, and bedbugs, serious leaks through the ceilings and walls described as “cascading waterfalls” when such complaints are reported and listed as violations or when tenants withhold rent to present their case in housing court under retaliatory threat of eviction. When repairs area performed, they are often self-certified and rarely re-inspected. The lack of concern for their tenants’ and other upper west side residents’ health and welfare is astonishing.

According to the DOB web site, several of the boilers in these buildings have not been inspected for years and do not have Certificates to Operate. The Brockholst certificate, for example, expired on October 28, 2009. Most previous inspections were certified by their own boiler installer, Irving Bauer, who inspects boilers in most if not all of their buildings.

Permission to construct the community facility in the cellar at 101 West 85th Street would further enable and subsidize slumlord management and the production of pollution via the resulting tax break which would be financed by taxpayers. The proposal should be scrutinized with an awareness of the entire building portfolio’s complaints, violations, mismanagement along with the pollution production.

The complete 25 page document may be accessed here.