Manhattan Square residents fed up with ‘endless’ asbestos work, other issues

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Residents at Manhattan Square in downtown Rochester are concerned about asbestos work that’s been going on for well over a year, and the work isn’t scheduled for completion until 2021.

“We have all this dust on the floor and it’s in the elevators,” says resident Brenda Weaver who says she’s developed respiratory issues.

“A lot of my friends, they have breathing problems,” says resident Betty Rivers, who also mentioned black mold is all over the building.

“I was told I’m borderline COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease),” adds resident Billy Booker.

“Asbestos is deadly!” says Pamela Owens.

Owens is a member of the Rochester Tenants Union and she lives at Manhattan Square. She says the asbestos job has been going on for over a year, and adds all residents should be relocated while such a toxic task is getting done.

“People who have been here over the years are getting sick — breathing problems, health problems,” Owens said.

Residents let News 8 in for a tour to witness the conditions. On top of the asbestos work, black mold is clearly visible, and the halls smell of powerful agents. It’s so bad, residents like Sara Trisvan have to wear a mask all day. She says she has developed asthma, showing medical paperwork.

“I’m stuck here! I want to get out of here,” says Trisvan.

“I have headaches, terrible headaches,” says resident Mary Ann Legg. “I see two specialists about my headaches.”

“That (chemical) smell is all the time,” says resident Terry Hurley.

Remarking on the chemical smells, Billy Booker said the lack of ventilation inside is causing chemicals to linger in the air, creating black mold in the building as well.

Booker says the owners are in violation of New York State Law Section 235-B, the Warrant of Habitability, which guarantees living spaces are fit for human habitation.

In addition, residents complained about rodents, lack of security, resident parking 0.2 miles away, human waste in the laundromat, and snow-filled sidewalks that go unattended. Owens say all they want is for their concerns to be taken seriously by Conifer.

Full Statement from building managers

The company that owns the building, Conifer Realty, released this statement Thursday in regards to this report:

“Conifer Realty, in partnership with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the State of New York, and the City of Rochester, purchased the community at the end of 2017 and began to develop a comprehensive financing package and construction scope to completely transform the community.  The final financing was closed in the summer of 2019 and construction began in the fall.  The community will also be fully maintained as Affordable Housing for decades to come under applicable federal and state affordable housing programs.  Built in 1974, the community had suffered years of serious neglect and deferred maintenance prior to our acquisition.

The transformation will take approximately 30 months to complete and will include upgrade or replacement of all major building systems, complete interior apartment renovations including all new windows, flooring, kitchens, and bathrooms, a brand new and expansive ground floor community center with new resident amenities, and exterior façade repairs and upgrades.

During the construction planning and investigation, it was discovered there are some asbestos containing materials present in the community.  It is important to note this is not exposed asbestos. As units are renovated any asbestos containing materials will be properly abated under the guidance of a licensed 3rd-party environmental consultant in compliance with all federal, state, and city laws and ordinances.  Inspectors from the City of Rochester and the Department of Labor recently conducted site visits and deemed us to be fully compliant with all asbestos guidelines and procedures.

There has been no discovery of any toxic mold at the community since our acquisition.

Regarding extermination, our property management team has an established preventative maintenance program in place.  This includes monthly inspections of apartments, and treatment of any areas necessary.    This work is performed by a fully licensed and reputable extermination company, and reporting is in strict compliance with all state and local requirements.  Regarding the heating, we were recently informed of some heating concerns in a small number of apartments.  Our maintenance team properly responded and made necessary repairs.

We have also encouraged our residents to stay connected to the renovation project and provide us their feedback.  A private resident meeting is held every month and all residents are invited to attend to hear updates on the construction progress, get their questions answered, and provide us feedback.  This has already resulted in us making a few minor modifications to our planned construction sequencing where possible to accommodate some resident requests.

Conifer has been a leader in the delivery of high-quality affordable housing for 45 years and is deeply committed to our residents and their quality of life.  While it will take a couple years to complete the entire community transformation, we continue to professionally maintain the property.  We are always happy to address any concerns our residents may have and our professional on-site management and maintenance teams are always available. ” -Conifer Realty

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