College, originally located on 23rd Street and Lexington Ave.,
moved to 138th St. and Convent Ave. in l907 after the completion
of five Neo-Gothic buildings. Today several of these buildings,
including Harris Hall (named after CUNY founder Townsend Harris),
are under constant renovation. Major construction projects are
being conducted while students, faculty and staff continue to work
inside. Unfortunately, the buildings’ decay and their repair
have both created serious health and safety problems at CCNY.
after receiving complaints from staff members about noise, dust
and debris in Harris Hall, the leadership of the City College PSC
chapter met with then-President Yolanda Moses, who agreed to stop
all construction in the building while offices were located there.
But during the summer and fall of 2000, the PSC again began to
receive complaints about conditions in Harris Hall.
members reported serious problems with ventilation as a result of
the construction. Dust in the offices was a constant issue, and
windows could not be opened during construction. People with
asthma complained about difficulty breathing. There were also
problems with asbestos removal, lack of heat, floods that damaged
computer equipment and a foul smell that indicated gas. Staff
members were especially worried about the impact of unhealthy
conditions on pregnant women who work or study in the building.
work at City College has caused health & safety problems.
PSC brought these issues to the attention of the administration,
Vice-President Barbara Gliwa organized a meeting of administrators
and staff who work in the building and some of the problems were
addressed. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters were
installed, the heating system was turned on, and there were some
other improvements. But there have been constant delays in a
promised move to better quarters. Originally the programs located
in Harris Hall were told they would moved during the summer of
2000. In October workers were told that all the programs (except
SEEK) would move in January 2001—but the administration has now
pushed this back to the summer of 2001.
fall of 2000, the PSC and District Council 37 began hearing
complaints from employees working in another historic building,
Baskerville Hall. There was no heat in a computer laboratory that
is used by disabled students, and the centralized air conditioning
and heating system was not in working order. Employees complained
of dust in the air, dirt, mice, floods, smoke, fumes and holes in
the walls and ceiling—to name a few. Problems of throat dryness,
eye irritations, and headaches were common.
Professor Mike Green, co-chair of the City College PSC chapter’s
health and safety committee, conducted an inspection of
Baskerville Hall last October. Green documented serious rodent
infestation, the lack of heat, peeling of the ceiling, complaints
from janitors who became ill after working for a couple of hours
in the building and a sensation of burning in the eyes of other
employees. In January of this year Russell Johnson, Safety
Coordinator of District Council 37, conducted another inspection
along with members and representatives of the two unions. His
report cited mouse droppings around workers’ desks, an uncovered
circuit box next to a stairwell and exposed pipes. Armed with
these findings, representatives of DC 37 and PSC met with college
administrators and it was agreed that staff members in the
Department of Public Relations would be moved to another building.
But other programs have remained in the building, and classrooms
are still being used.
On March 8
the PSC organized an educational meeting at the campus with
Professor David Kotelchuck, Director of the Center for
Occupational and Environmental Health at Hunter College and a PSC
Health and Safety Officer, as the keynote speaker. Kotelchuck
noted that at CUNY, health and safety problems related to
construction and indoor air quality have become common, and the
PSC has made them a priority. He discussed the occupational safety
and health provision of the PSC contract and talked about the key
role that local committees like the CCNY PSC chapter’s health
and safety group can play in enforcing it. The PSC and DC 37
members and representatives attending the meeting decided to work
together on forming a collaborative committee.
members have met with the administration to discuss these
problems, management cites two roadblocks to solutions. They point
out that the scarcity of funds at CUNY makes it hard to do the
repairs that are required. Also, according to the PSC’s Mike
Green: “While the administration has been cooperative, at least
in agreeing to deal with problems, there is a university-wide
problem with DASNY (the Dormitory Authority). DASNY is not under
control of the college, and the contractors do not seem to
understand what it means to have people working around them,
especially for a university to be operating while construction is
in progress. DASNY has an administration appointed directly by the
Governor’s office, and seems to operate mainly to suit
itself.” Green said that DASNY has presented “the most severe
challenge” to health and safety activists at CCNY.
has made contract proposals that would strengthen provisions on
occupational safety and health, and would include CUNY Health and
Safety Officers in the bargaining unit. These provisions, as well
as more resources for CUNY, would help resolve chronic problems
such as the construction-related issues at City College. But even
though problems still remain, health and safety activists at CCNY
feel that they’ve started to make a difference.