PORT JERVIS — Friday afternoon, friends and neighbors of mother and local do-gooder, Gina Torres gathered in front of 130 Front St. where a neighbor’s home and family was endangered by debris from a demolished firehouse at 17 Seward Ave.
About a dozen individuals met with concern regarding the remains and its containment of asbestos. The rubble marked by red tape reading “DANGER ASBESTOS HAZARD” has sat for a month after the city of Port Jervis destroyed the building which has been vacant and in disrepair for many years.
Residents while fearful for their health, were also critical of the timing of the building’s demolition, suspecting the property was being cleared hastily by the city, and callously without clean up planning, to be sold to the neighboring Salvation Army on Ball Street, further descending residents into financial hardship as another property is taken off the tax rolls.
As the Front Street residents gathered, at about 4:30p.m. Friday Sept. 1, workers from the New York State Department of Labor’s Asbestos Control Bureau arrived on the scene to place Asbestos Monitors at the site and to cover windows of neighboring buildings. As many residents noted, these precautions came after a month of the carcinogenic material remained open to wind and rain, and residents of the Fourth Ward began to speak out against it.
Mayor Kelly Decker visited the group offering peace of mind. He also offered to share the air quality report from data collected by the monitors upon their conclusion. Tuesday, Sept. 5 it is estimated that the debris will be cleared and the report finished.
Orange County Legislator Thomas Faggione, who had arrived only minutes before the Mayor, told the crowd of several people that “the city destroyed the firehouse, [and] it’s the city’s responsibility to clean it up.” He urged citizens to continue raising their voices and asking questions of their representatives no matter how redundant, especially at Common Council meetings. To this last point, many residents indicated that representation was not present or communicative in regards to the firehouse and asbestos issue among others.
When speaking about Fourth Ward Councilwoman Lisa Randazzo, Faggione had this to say: “I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t show up.”
The cleanup comes as the city continues many other projects and may cost taxpayers $145,000 or more to complete.