Asbestos fears at Midwood Post Office

The Postal Service is re-roofing part of the post office in Midwood — but some residents worry that they have been exposed to asbestos during the construction.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat — nor apparently the threat of lung cancer — will stop Midwood’s mailmen from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, no matter how much they want to.

Workers at the Midwood Post Office on Coney Island Avenue are lashing out against their administrators, claiming rehab crews are removing asbestos from the 60-year-old building, but no one is taking their safety seriously.

“This is an old building and we’re worried the dust debris could be dangerous,” said one postal employee, who wouldn’t give his name. “It’s not being taken seriously enough.”

Yet United States Postal Service spokeswoman Connie Chirichello said employees have no need to worry: the alterations are being done in the evening hours. Chirichello wouldn’t confirm or deny the existence of asbestos, however.

“Postal officials are ensuring any work being performed on the outside does not interfere with daily business or create any problems for workers,” Chirichello said.

But employees claim that hard hats have been hammering away during the daytime, too.

“Yesterday they broke a hole through the ceiling in two places,” said the worker.

Workers concerns could be justified. There is asbestos in the building, or at least was: the city Department of Environmental Protection inspected the building on April 3 after the postal agency filed an asbestos project notification with the agency. A city spokesman said the asbestos abatement was relegated to the roof and not the interior of the building.

“No violation was found,” said Mercedes Padilla, a spokeswoman from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Yet workers rebuffed the claim, saying they have been left perilously out of the loop.

“There’s a drop ceiling in that facility, but tiles have been out in places,” said the worker. The postal service said the work would continue until next month.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned all new uses of asbestos — silicate minerals used in construction materials from the 1800s to 1989 — after it was found to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other deadly illnesses.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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