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April 25, 2011

The apartment complex of Flatbush Gardens in Brooklyn, NY exposed its maintenance workers to raw sewage, asbestos, lead paint and electrical hazards, says OSHA.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued 20 citations for violations to the property management company Renaissance Equity Holdings and levied $51,100 in fines after inspecting working conditions in the sprawling 59 building apartment complex on Foster Avenue in Brooklyn.

"Our inspections found maintenance workers exposed to a variety of health and safety hazards while performing their duties, including stripping paint, removing drywall and clearing basements of raw sewage that had backed up during heavy rains," said Kay Gee, OSHA’s Manhattan area director in a release. "The violations uncovered are basic safety and health issues that should have been addressed and were not. We expect thorough, effective and expeditious corrective action."

16 of the violations were serious violations, those with a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. OSHA issued the other four violations because the property management company failed to record all job related injuries and illnesses as required.

According to the OSHA, Renaissance Equity Holdings:

  • Failed to keep basements clear of raw sewage
  • Failed to protect workers entering basements from exposure to raw sewage by not providing equipment such as waders
  • Failed to determine the presence of asbestos insulation on pipes and warn workers of the hazard.
  • Failed to provide workers with asbestos awareness training.
  • Failed to conduct an exposure assessment for lead.
  • Failed to train workers who stripped paint and replaced drywall about the hazards of lead paint.
  • Failed to train workers about the hazardous chemicals they must use.
  • Failed to guard basement windows to prevent the entry of rodents and vermin.
  • Exposed workers to exposed electrical wiring
  • Exposed workers to fall hazards from a broken ladder and uncovered holes in the floors.

The New York Daily News reports that maintenance workers at the apartment complex complained to the agency last year about the horrid working conditions and that Flatbush Gardens has since locked 70 workers out, after they later refused to take a 30% pay cut and loss of benefits.

Renaissance Equity Holdings has 15 business days to comply or contest the OSHA findings.

"No prior violations have ever been found at Flatbush Gardens and none of the citations issued were classified as willful or repetitive," Robert Wolf, attorney for Renaissance Equity Holdings, told the New York Daily News. "We contest the allegations and fully expect a favorable resolution."

The community interest group Fix Flatbush Gardens reports that there are 4,807 open housing violations for Flatbush Gardens with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Many of the conditions were caught on tape in this YouTube video.

“We worked under those conditions and we complained about it but it hasn’t gotten fixed, so we went to OSHA and the charges are being heard now," one worker told WPIX News.

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