Asbestos in Brooklyn bus depot sickened workers, merits remediation: TWU Local 100

Councilmember Rafael Espinal, left, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, at podium, and TWU Local 100 Secretary-Treasurer Earl Philips, right, hold a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Photo Credit: Andy Mai

The MTA says “there is no health risk” after tests found no friable asbestos.

Councilmember Rafael Espinal, left, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, at podium, and TWU Local 100 Secretary-Treasurer Earl Philips, right, hold a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Councilmember Rafael Espinal, left, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, at podium, and TWU Local 100 Secretary-Treasurer Earl Philips, right, hold a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Photo Credit: Beikyong Lee, Thoughtful Space, 2017, 3D animation, mapping, sou

MTA workers are calling on the agency to remove asbestos found in a Brooklyn bus depot and determine if its presence has caused respiratory issues.

The Transit Workers Union Local 100 workers confirmed that employees found air vents at the facility in East New York were lined with asbestos-laced cloth and posed a hazard, following an investigation by the New York Daily News reporting that asbestos was discovered last winter.

“This is workers’ health and safety. It’s the community’s health and safety,” said J.P. Patafio, vice president of TWU Local 100, at a press conference outside the depot on Wednesday. “They gotta get off their ass and they gotta fix it. And it’s insulting,” he added.

Patafio called on the MTA to test all workers for exposure and to conduct an air quality test around the depot, which was constructed in 1859 and started housing buses in 1931.

The MTA disputed allegations by the union that the asbestos is hazardous. Tests conducted by New York City Transit’s Office of System Safety and a third party environmental firm on Monday found no friable asbestos, according to Sham Tarek, an MTA spokesperson.

“There is no health risk to workers in the building. Claims to the contrary are false and irresponsible,” Tarek said in a statement. Though, he said the MTA is developing a plan to address any asbestos-containing fabric.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams attended the press conference and called for an independent inspection of MTA facilities, prioritizing ones with the worst conditions. 

“It must be one method and it particularly must be on the triage system where you go to those areas that have the highest need,” he said.

Other officials criticized the MTA for not prioritizing its spending. Council Member Rafael Espinal said money should have been used for repairs before building new MTA facilities.

“We shouldn’t be here talking about the health of our workers. That should be a given right,” Espinal said.

While NYCT President Andy Byford and other executives visited the facilty Wednesday, union leadership said MTA officials should come inspect the depot themselves if they do not believe their claims.

“Tell them to come here and stick their finger in the asbestos hole cause it’s clear they’re lying,” Patafio said.

Andy Mai