A woman in Ithaca has sealed up the homes she rents with plastic in fear of she says are chemicals coming from across the street.

Susan Kramer’s properties aren’t hard to see. She has several on West Court Street in Ithaca and they are all wrapped in plastic at the entrances and windows. Across the street, the old Tompkins County Public Library is being torn down, and Kramer claims asbestos and other harmful chemicals fill the air when construction goes on.

“It is not just frustrating. It is really terrifying,” Kramer said. “We are afraid short term and long term of the contamination that is occurring here that we are watching occur on a daily basis.”

The demolition of the building has been a hot button issue in Ithaca since the summer. There is asbestos in the building, but the property owners, Travis Hyde Properties say everything about the demolition is up to standard and the air is safe. They provided a fact sheet. It is listed below.

When will the Old Library be taken down?

The combined abatement and demolition of the former Tompkins County Public Library commenced on December 3th with site mobilization and actual demolition started on December 17th. Originally planned to start before Thanksgiving, the Mayor of Ithaca asked to delay the demolition to have an independent structural engineering firm evaluate the structure of the roof to either confirm or contradict the findings of the original structural engineering report. Travis Hyde agreed to allow the second inspection. The findings of an unsafe roof were confirmed by the independent engineer. The demolition will require 30 work days to complete.

Why wasn’t the roof of the building shored up?

A licensed public engineer had certified that the building was unsafe for occupancy during any proposed abatement activity. Commencing a conventional abatement would have put abatement workers in harm’s way due to a very unstable roof structure. The engineer determined that the building should be condemned so that it can be taken down in a manner that is maximally protective of worker and public safety.

Why is the asbestos abatement and demolition happening at the same time?

The City of Ithaca has condemned the building due to unsafe structural conditions inside the building. When a building is condemned, a process known as controlled demolition is used to remove the building. Because asbestos is being removed with conventional demolition material, all material is deemed contaminated construction debris and treated and handled as a Regulated Asbestos Containing Material (RACM). The demolition contractor is using an ultra-high reach demolition excavator to deconstruct the building bit by bit. For the purpose of dust suppression, the site is being continuously sprayed during actual demolition work with a large mister similar to a snow maker one would see at a ski resort. Stockpiles of demolished materials are wetted down and covered every evening. When enough material has accumulated, it is loaded into to a large truck with a fully lined cargo hold and a sealed cover. Any water that isn’t absorbed by the demolition debris is collected, and triple filtered for particulates. This water may then be re-used for spraying. All the drain lines on site are plugged with concrete and the site is graded for any water to flow and collect the center of the site. The controlled demolition process that has been prescribed for this building has been used to safely take down condemned structures all over the state. According to the Ithaca Building Department, more than 30 condemned buildings in Ithaca alone have been demolished using controlled demolition in the last 20 years without incident.

Who is performing the work?

Le Chase Construction Services has engaged Gorick Construction of Binghamton. Gorick has been in business since 1945 and specializes in demolition. Who is overseeing the work? Delta Engineers, Architects & Land Surveyors, of Endwell will be providing project monitoring, air sampling and, and community air monitoring services during demolition operations. Delta will have a full time monitor on site to enforce all federal state and local regulations. Daily logs will be kept of all activity on site.

Who is ensuring compliance with environmental and safety regulations?

Gorick Construction and Delta Engineers will be required to follow regulations protective of public health and safety. These regulations come from the EPA, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the NYS Department of Health (DOH) and the NYS Department of Labor (DOL). Specifically, DOL’s Code Rule 56 requires abatement phase project monitoring, air monitoring and air sample analysis. There are seven different air monitors surrounding the site as well as community air monitoring upwind and downwind of the site as a proactive measure. Project Monitoring and Air Monitoring Duties will be onsite continuously during demolition work. Further technical details are available upon request.

Kramer remains unconvinced. She claims Travis Hyde Properties and the City of Ithaca cut corners when it came to approving and going about the demolition. Frost Travis, President of Travis Hyde Properties, told NewsChannel 9 his company has been in Ithaca for decades and all protocols are being followed. 

The City of Ithaca has yet to respond to our request for comment.