Public Health Risk? Asbestos Abatement at Domino Sugar Factory

by Heather Van De Mark on

Last week, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and Dr. Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH, Co-founder of Sherpaa hosted a town hall in south side Williamsburg to discuss and demand safe asbestos abatement at the Domino Sugar Refinery and more transparency regarding asbestos removal and possible risks of exposure.

The town hall convened after a community resident took video and uploaded it to YouTube of New York Insulation employees doing open-air asbestos abatement work on the roof of one of the buildings and engaging in what could be non-compliant actions.

Linda Reinstein, President, CEO and Co-founder of ADAO presented a slideshow, “Asbestos: Exposing the Truth” that discussed the dangers and health risks of asbestos. 10,000 workers die of asbestos related diseases, like mesothelioma, annually. She touched upon the history of asbestos and its intersection with science/health, policy and advocacy. Even though the first case of asbestos lung-disease occurred in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the U.S. created asbestos related laws and policies.

© 2013 ADAO.

If you’re unfamiliar with the dangers of asbestos, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website has a helpful Q&A guide.

How Can People Be Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.

Health Effects From Exposure to Asbestos
Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects. Disease symptoms may take many years to develop following exposure.

Reinstein then segued into asbestos removal at the Domino Sugar development. Two Trees, the Domino Sugar developer, hired New York Insulation to do the asbestos removal, even though New York Insulation had numerous violations against them including violations for improper bagging of asbestos, improper preparation of work area, and improper personal protective equipment and others.

Reinstein emphasized that the objective of the town hall wasn’t to stop urban development, but rather to demand urban responsibility from developers. She said, “This is not about Domino, Two Trees. This is about public health and safety.”

The final call to action was a list of demands from the community of Williamsburg and ADAO to federal, state and city agencies including EPA, DEP, DEC, NY Dept. of Labor, and NYC Dept. of Sanitation Environmental Police. Demands included:

  1. An immediate “field investigation.”
  2. Copy of all air testing reports.
  3. Evaluation of the current asbestos abatement procedures occurring at the Domino Sugar Refinery.
  4. Evaluation of the asbestos-containing material that has been subjected to sanding, grinding, cutting and abrading or that which has been crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder in the course of demolition that may be in violation of federal regulations.

View the ADAO’s slideshow for the Williamsburg event below.

For more information on asbestos and the risk to the public, visit the ADAO website or EPA website.

For related stories:
Developer at Brooklyn’s Domino Factory selects controversial asbestos removal firm

Domino Sugar Factory site faces heat from union over asbestos removal

Neighbors Report That Domino Sugar Complex Workers Are Removing Asbestos Illegally

Photos: The First (Legal) Party Inside Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar Refinery

Heather Van De Mark

Heather Van De Mark

Heather is a designer/writer specializing in non-profit organizations and social causes. Originally from central NY, Heather settled into the charming Greenpoint neighborhood in 2011. While most of her community activism takes place from behind a computer screen, Heather can often be found at CB1 meetings, the McCarren Park track and any of the parks along the waterfront.
  • rutanya alda commented:

    i just finished two weeks of work last week inside the domino sugar factory shooting a film 14 hours a day. sleeping on the cement floor in the extreme heat while waiting to work.
    i am stunned at the news of the asbestos.
    do you know if i was possibly exposed to asbestos.
    the film company was doing an illegal rental and we were asked not to tell anyone we were shooting there.
    who can i contact to get more info on weather or not i was exposed.
    thank you
    rutanya alda


  • Heather Van De Mark

    Heather Van De Mark commented:

    Hi Rutanya,

    I strongly encourage you to speak to Linda Reinstein from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. ( She gave the lecture about Asbestos and the Domino Sugar Factory back in May. Likewise, maybe contact the event’s co-ordinator: Dr. Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH, Co-founder of Sherpaa. I couldn’t find a direct contact for him, but his organization’s general e-mail is: They might be able to point you in the right direction.


  • Magdalena Sztompka commented:

    Hi I recently rent a room in Greenpoint and I noticed I have terrible allergies ( they affect eyes,headache, swollen eyes, watery eyes- I have never had such a allergies before) so I came across this article, someone told me there was Asbestos Factory in Greenpoint and maybe some left overs are here.
    Do you know anything about it? I am going tomorrow to Allergies Doctor, but I wonder what can be the reason. I went yesterday to Upper West Manhattan and I could breathe full swing. Here in greenpoint I cannot breathe- I feel there is sticky, dirty air, bad smell and my allergies go crazy here. I wonder if this has something to do with Asbestos and how far it can spread. It might be also molds ( that are probably grow from G train level…)


  • Heather Van De Mark

    Heather Van De Mark commented:

    Hi Magdalena,

    Sorry to hear about your allergies. I do know, it’s been a rougher allergy season for many than previous years. But air quality in Greenpoint is a big deal. I don’t know about any specific asbestos uses in Greenpoint, although, with our industrial past, I’m sure it exists, did exist in the neighborhood.

    Also, depending on where you moved, you should look into the Meeker Avenue plumes: and if you live in the plumes, be sure to have your home tested.

    I wish I could give you more specifics. Keep checking the website for updates on environmental issues, hopefully including future posts on air quality.