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IKEA DEMOLITION ON HOLD

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City officials this week ordered contractors for Ikea to stop the demolition of a Civil War-era building in Red Hook after inspectors found it contained higher levels of asbestos than the Swedish home furnishings giant had reported.

Following up on a complaint from a neighborhood resident, the Department of Environmental Protection sent an agent out to investigate the site, on Beard Street near Otsego Street, on Jan. 6, but was unable to gain access to the former New York Shipyards property.

This week, they arrived at the site again, and successfully examined debris from the demolition on Building 3, where dismantling had already begun, and an inspector determined the materials constituted “a risk to public health.”

The agency ordered that all work stop on Jan. 12.

“We were able to determine the debris was various parts of the roofing tiles, the pieces of which were still mixed in with other types of debris,” explained Ian Michaels, a DEP spokesman.

He said the agency had not yet determined what, if any, penalties would be assessed against the property owner, which he identified as Ikea, or the demolition company, Breeze Demolition Inc.

“We instructed them they had to hire a licensed asbestos construction contractor, and file with us a scope of work for how they were going to clean it up,” explained Michaels.

The tip-off came when a resident called 311 to advise the DEP that a study conducted by a firm Ikea hired in 2002 for an addendum to their Environmental Impact Study reported that the entire roof of the building was made of ACM, or “asbestos containing material.” The study said it was not structurally sound, and that ACM debris was littered throughout the building.

This information contradicted the forms submitted to the Department of Buildings in November, which identified the only asbestos as being contained in the window caulking. The Buildings Department passed the information on to the DEP.

Neither Ikea nor its public relations firm, Yoswein New York, returned calls for comment.

Ikea, which last summer gained city approval to build a $70 million, 346,000-square-foot store on the 22-acre former shipyard, was already facing heat from the Red Hook community, which, along with the Municipal Art Society, last week accused the company of haphazardly destroying buildings that may have historical value.

The buildings, which nearly fill the block between Dwight and Ostego streets, were being unnecessarily demolished, charged residents, as well as Rep. Nydia Velazquez, the Municipal Art Society and the Army Corps of Engineers, who have all asked Ikea to stop the work until a determination could be made of the historic significance of the buildings.

Ikea, which plans to open in 2007 and use that site as a parking lot, said the building was in imminent danger of collapse and plowed ahead with its demolition until stopped by DEP this week.

The Municipal Art Society, whose aim is to preserve cultural and neighborhood character, told The Brooklyn Papers last week they would consider legal action against Ikea for violating Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation act, which the society maintains, required authorization before destruction of the property.

During preparation of Ikea’s EIS, the company’s sponsoring agency, the Department of City Planning, determined the buildings might be eligible for the national and state historic registers, according to a City Planning spokeswoman.


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