ROCHESTER – During a recent visit to the city’s Midtown Plaza, New York Governor David A. Patterson announced that $55 million would be made available for a major asbestos abatement project at the now defunct retail and office complex. Asbestos is a known cancer-causing agent, and significant amounts of the hazardous material exists in numerous locations throughout Midtown Plaza’s collection of buildings that total approximately 1.5 million square feet of unoccupied space. The state will now seek bids for what has been described as the largest asbestos abatement project ever to be undertaken in the region.
“Ridding Midtown Plaza of asbestos is an essential step towards realizing the potential of Midtown Rising, a project that will help transform downtown Rochester,” said Patterson during his announcement. “The commencement of the asbestos removal clears a major hurdle standing in the way of the City’s renewal. This area will be transformed into an urban mixed-use development and include the national headquarters for PATEC Communications. I am committed to working with my partners in government and the private sector to see this project through and see Rochester revitalized,” Patterson added.
Midtown Plaza has essentially been blocked from redevelopment due to the high cost of the asbestos abatement needed throughout the site, and the governor’s announcement was welcome news to officials at Empire State Development (ESD), New York’s primary economic development agency. ESD will be responsible for overseeing the multi-million dollar asbestos abatement contracts, and its upstate region President Dennis M. Mullen looks forward to starting the project. “Today marks a significant milestone for the Midtown Rising development effort,” said Mullen. “It is uplifting to note that Governor Patterson recognizes that investing in transformational development efforts such as this one are vital to our region’s security.”
Located in the heart of downtown Rochester, the Midtown Plaza complex includes four main buildings, a two story shopping mall that is built around a central public atrium area, an 1,820 space underground parking garage , and several skyway pedestrian bridges that connect the plaza to other downtown structures. Asbestos was long ago discovered to exist in pipe insulation, ceiling and floor tiles, and numerous other building products used throughout the complex.
Asbestos is a mineral that can be found in the soil or in above ground rock formations in many countries around the world. The material exists in numerous colors, chemical compositions, and types, though, all asbestos is considered to be a threat to human health. Once widely used on a global scale by a broad spectrum of industries, asbestos is now largely banned in many countries around the world. In the early 1970s, myriad scientific and medical studies had confirmed that microscopic, airborne asbestos fibers-once inhaled into the lungs-could cause the onset of serious respiratory and other diseases. These asbestos fibers can become permanently imbedded in soft lung tissues where they can remain dormant and undetected for up to 50 years before leading to illnesses such as asbestosis-a severe scarring of the lining of the lung that results in reduced lung function. Airborne asbestos exposures are also responsible for the onset of the aggressive and incurable malignant mesothelioma – a form of cancer.
Getting the asbestos out of Midtown Plaza is good news for all New Yorkers, said State Senator Joseph E. Robach. “I applaud the collaborative efforts working with the Governor to revitalize the center of our city and our community. This funding will help to bring jobs and stimulate our economy, accommodating PATEC and other businesses in the heart of our community,” said Robach.
According to ESD officials, the asbestos abatement project is expected to last 10-12 months and will result in the creation of approximately 200 new jobs. Once the site is cleared, development of the PATEC Communications headquarters can begin, a project that is expected to be completed by 2012.