You can call it a mold bomb.
Residents living next to the now-vacant building on Brighton Beach Avenue where the MET Food Supermarket was located until it closed last September say the building’s owner hasn’t done anything to clean the property since it was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, and they fear the structure is already generating dangerous mold spores for neighbors to inhale.
“If you know anything about mold, water attached to material will grow mold in no time at all,” said neighbor Arlene Brenner. “It’s been four months now and they still have not addressed it.”
Locals say there’s no doubt the building between Ocean Parkway and Brighton First Street is a mold haven, citing the still-visible high-water mark on the building’s exterior and interior walls, along with sand and mud deposits in the building, which are clearly visible through the property’s murky windows.
“You can see the ocean water line is at least three feet on the outside and the inside of the building. You can see it right around the walls,” said Brenner.
The Brighton Beach building hasn’t been left completely unattended since Sandy, and Brenner says that workers have deposited boxes, refrigerator cases, and other junk from inside the old supermarket at the building’s rear — but that just leaves the likely mold-ridden garbage even closer to nearby neighbors.
“When the backyard of this property is where they take out, there’s tons of wood and platforms and crates right under people’s windows and it’s full of mold,” said Brenner.
According to local mold expert Ida Sanoff, the real problems will start if the building’s owner decides to demolish the trashed building without properly cleaning it, which could lead to spores and mold-laden dust billowing out into the streets and through the windows of the apartment buildings flanking the old supermarket on either side.
“There’s an apartment directly in back of it, there’s an apartment house directly behind it, and if they don’t clean this thing up properly when the demo begins, we’re going to be flooded with mold,” said Sanoff, who has a degree in medical microbiology, and formerly held a national certification as an infection control practitioner.
If folks inhale the mold, they could face serious, difficult-to-treat health conditions, according to Sanoff.
“It can cause sudden asthma attacks, and older people can get pneumonia from certain types of mold, which is very difficult to treat,” Sanoff explained. “The whole thing is quantity, and some types of mold are more likely to cause serious illness than others.”
A sign posted on the property shows that Department of Buildings inspectors attempted to, but were unable to gain access to the building on Nov. 20.
But the city says it’s aware of the problem and promises that Department of Buildings inspectors will be making a house call in the coming days, according to a spokeswoman for the department.
“We are aware, we received a complaint and we’re sending someone out in the next few days,” said the spokeswoman. “I’m not sure exactly when, but I can say that we’ll have someone out there in the next few days.”
Reached by phone, the building’s owner’s wife said that the building has been cleaned, despite the water marks clearly visible on the outside of the building, and that tenants currently leasing the building are waiting on permits from the city to begin renovations to turn the space into a two-story retail site.
“There’s no need for concern because the building has been cleaned since the storm,” said Louise Bonsignore, who’s husband John owns the building. “It’s leased out to a tenant and the tenant is waiting on permits to proceed with construction, because he’s building a two story commercial complex there. It will be used for retail and office.
“There’s no mold,” she said. “They’re going to do demolition on the inside. Everything was cleaned out and dried.”Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn