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BMHA Resumes Demolition of Kensington Heights |

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BMHA Resumes Demolition of Kensington Heights
BMHA Resumes Demolition of Kensington Heights

A Statement Released by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority

BUFFALO, NY May 10, 2012 – Work began Monday on the former Kensington Heights apartments demolition, following a plan the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That plan calls for affixing double-ply polyurethane to the outside of all building openings and maintaining them in perfect condition; remediating all asbestos-containing materials; cleaning contaminated soil; abating asbestos materials in the buildings and demolishing the abated buildings.

“We are pleased to again be moving forward on this project with our partners, the EPA and the New York State Labor Department,” said Dawn E. Sanders, BMHA executive director. “We are aiming to demolish the first two fully remediated buildings starting this summer.”

The BMHA has $3.3 million remaining from a $5 million New York State Dormitory Authority grant to conduct the work. Under the EPA plan’s requirements, an additional $5 million will be needed to complete the project. The $3.3 million in hand will lead to remediation and demolition of two buildings and sealing the other four.

“We are in active discussions now, and have been for quite some time, with all our partners, national, state and city, to determine where the final funding will come from,” Ms. Sanders said. “With everyone’s cooperation and support, I’m confident we will see this project to completion and the site certified asbestos free.”

The current timetable calls for the contractor, Aria Contracting Corp. of Orchard Park, to demolish the first two buildings starting in July and completing that work by Oct. 31. The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority approved the contract.

On Feb. 2, the EPA endorsed the BMHA plan for asbestos remediation at the former apartment buildings. The BMHA/EPA plan addresses the complete abatement, removal, clean-up, packaging and disposal of asbestos-containing materials in and around the buildings at the site.

What resumption of work on the buildings means to the neighborhood will be subject of a community meeting the week of May 29 at a convenient neighborhood location. Sufficient time will be utilized to alert neighbors to the meeting and the exact date.

Kensington Heights, built in 1958, has been vacant since 1980. Formerly a federal/state development, its six seven-story brick apartment buildings have stood as eyesores on 16 acres of Buffalo’s East Side for three decades, visible to motorists on the nearby 33. There are approximately 67 units per building as well as some common area space and onsite parking.

Among the BMHA/EPA plan’s highlights:

  • The asbestos-containing debris outside the buildings will be abated by wetting areas with water, cutting vegetation to remove visual obstruction, and following a grid-search system to locate debris.
  • In areas with significant amounts of debris, soil will be wetted and removed to a minimum depth of two inches. In areas with isolated debris, the debris and the soil within a 2-foot perimeter will be removed to a minimum depth of two inches. Hard surfaces (e.g., concrete) will be abated and cleaned. After decontamination, testing and visual inspections will ensure all debris was properly removed.
  • The plan also addresses two dumpsters left on-site by a previous contractor that contain asbestos-related materials. The plan called for the dumpsters to be wetted, sealed, and covered. This work is complete, under EPA and New York State Department of Labor’s direction.
  • Air monitoring of the work area must be conducted throughout the abatement operation.
  • The plan then requires abatement of asbestos inside the six buildings. Abatement work will proceed by construction of barriers at all windows, doors, and exterior openings. That will consist of two layers of plastic sheeting installed and sealed outside each window opening.
  • After installing the plastic, the buildings will be maintained in a sealed condition pending and during asbestos abatement. These barriers must be inspected daily to ensure there are no defects.
  • Abatement will then proceed in each of the buildings, with negative air pressure installed and made operational in all buildings while cleaning and abatement activities take place. All debris inside the buildings will be treated as asbestos debris, and be disposed as such.
  • An independent third party hired by BMHA will conduct air and project monitoring. Upon completion of abatement, the third-party project monitor will perform an inspection to determine if asbestos debris remains.
  • Thereafter, the New York Department of Labor and/or EPA must inspect the buildings to ensure they are free of asbestos before aggressive final air sampling takes place
  • Asbestos-containing tar and flashing is present on structural components of the building on steel reinforced spandrel beams and reinforced concrete columns. This asbestos is not likely to become friable during building demolition. Building demolition will take place only after removal of all asbestos components, with the exception of the exterior vapor barrier tar.
  • Contaminated soil will be removed and disposed of as part of the building demolition. During demolition, air sampling and monitoring shall be conducted at the fence line in accordance with the plan. 

Kensington Heights Factsheet

Kensington Heights was part of the BMHA’s State portfolio which at one time consisted of Ellicott Mall, Talbert Mall (now known as Frederick Douglass) Ferry Grider Homes and Marine Drive. Under the State program, the State only paid for bonds used to build Kensington Heights, while the BMHA collected rental income and managed the property. Any deficits were picked up by the City of Buffalo under a Loan and Subsidy Contract. In the early 1980s operating costs and utilities soared. Also at that time, Kensington Heights had a vacancy rate 64.7% (240 vacant units out of 371 available units). A relocation plan was approved and the remaining residents were relocated. In August 1980 Gov. Hugh Carey signed into law legislation sponsored by Assemblyman William B. Hoyt to affect the sale of this development. The purchase price was to be $2.5 million to pay off the bonds. Over the years, there have been several unsuccessful attempts by various developers to obtain the necessary funding to rehabilitate the development and the property has remained vacant since 1980. 

 

         In an effort to clear up any misperceptions about the project, here are the facts:

 

·         No BMHA employee or official was ever indicted or even accused of any wrongdoing in connection with federal charges involving past subcontractor work at Kensington Heights. No BMHA contractor on the project is indicted or charged.

 

·         The project sat vacant for 30 years. BMHA and Mayor Brown deserve credit for taking on something others failed to do.

 

·         After 30 years of inaction, BMHA secured a $5 million state grant and is now undertaking a job that others failed or refused to do for decades.

 

·         The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s compliance order includes no fines and no sanctions or punitive actions of any kind.

 

·         EPA confirmed there is no threat to public safety from asbestos outside the buildings. BMHA conducted air and soil testing with a qualified testing expert and also confirmed that there is no asbestos contamination of air or soil outside of the buildings.

 

·         State and city inspectors charged by the U.S. Attorney were to be on site monitoring the work and reports of contractors and sub-contractors hired by the developer. BMHA had no direct or indirect duties in that regard and BMHA staff was not on site at any time during the abatement.

 

·         Despite criticism directed at Mayor Brown, the developer hired the contractors during the prior administration, without input by the BMHA, whose only role was to contract with the developer for abatement and demolition prior to site development. Mayor Brown requested extensive testing after the initial allegations of possible contamination came to light. BMHA answered that request with immediate air and soil testing which showed no risk to any surrounding areas away from the buildings.

 

More about the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority

The authority’s mission is to assist our residents in attaining and maintaining a high standard for their quality of life. The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority will provide services and opportunities associated with affordable, desirable, and secure housing to individuals and families. We will provide customer service, programs and amenities which are the best possible. The purpose of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is multi-faceted. It is our intention to create programs and provide services to our resident population and the broader Buffalo community within the parameters set by these overall goals: To provide safe, clean, affordable housing to residents of the City of Buffalo that will be considered housing of choice; to encourage and participate in strategic redevelopment of city's neighborhoods; to offer all residents equal access to desirable housing and communities; to foster a sense of purpose and pride that will encourage family self-sufficiency; to encourage tenant participation and involvement in BMHA operations and services as well as providing access to entrepreneurial development and employment opportunities. The authority has 10,000 residents and 240 employees spread through 33 developments.

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