Parks worker Cory Credell, 45, (above) fell though a floorboard while working in an unsafe building in Fort Totten after it had supposedly been inspected and cleared to work in by the head of the parks Department’s Health and Safety division.
Cordell was stuck between the 1st floor and basement and had to extracted by FDNY after falling through a hole in the floor. (Photos: NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge
By Geoffrey Croft
Parks workers were sent into a crumbling building after the head of the Parks Department’s Health and Safety division had falsely indicated that she had inspected it and was safe, NYC Park Advocates has learned.
On Monday a Parks Department worker had to be rescued by the Fire Department after falling through the floorboard of a rotted, feces invested building in Fort Totten Park in the northeastern section of Queens.
Park workers say they were forced to work in the decrepit building even after protesting and sending photographic evidence to their supervisors that showed the building was dangerous.
They also say they were forced to work despite not having the proper training or equipment - no face ventilators - just a paper mask.
The worker fell through a rotten floor board after Parks Department’s Health & Safety division head Nancy Barthold allegedly inspected the building on Friday and gave the workers the go-ahead to clean the toxic building.
Days after the incident Barthold admitted that she in fact had not gone into the building where the worker was injured and it was not inspected NYC Park Advocates has learned.
Park workers arrived on Monday morning around 9:00am and had to use a crow bar to gain entry to the putrid smelling dwelling which was filled with raccoon and other animal feces.
The rotton floor where park worker Corey Credell fell through.
Once inside they saw a hole in the floor and a large hole in the ceiling that went through to the roof. They immediately notified their supervisor.
One of the workers texted photos of the condition to their supervisor, Northeast Queens Parks Administrator, Matt Symons.
When workers balked at the dangerous work assignment Symons produced an email from Nancy Barthold giving them the ok.
One employee still refused to work in the unsafe conditions.
Cory Credell, 45, went inside and began to sweep and shovel the toxic fecal dust with a push broom when the floor suddenly caved in causing him to get stuck up to his waste between the first floor and the basement.
“The floor just gave way, ” he recalled after returning home from the hospital.
Parks worker Corey Credell lies on a board beside the hole he feel in after being extracted by the FDNY.
“I was cleaning the area and then I feel through the floor. That’s when I hurt my back, my neck. I hit my knee on the water pipe that was under the floor.
I was yelling in pain.”
His colleagues had trouble reaching him due to the precarious condition of the floor.
One attempted and approached from the back but he threw out his back out trying to lift Corey out who was lodged in the floor.
“He was trying to lift me through the floor but it was too painful,” Credell said.
Another co-worker ran across the street and got the fire department who have several operations facilities nearby.
FDNY personell arrived quickly. They put a board across a beam and were able to extract him.
On Friday an APSW park worker refused to work in the building and a supervisor overseeing welfare workers (JTP’s) pulled her workers out due to the obvious safety hazards.
But that did not deter Parks' Heath and Safety.
“Went through the house,” Nancy Barthold wrote to Matt Symons Northeast Queens Parks Administrator, on Friday September 30th in an email obtained by NYC Park Advocates.
“The staff can clean in there as long as they are suited up and take frequent breaks and as long as its not just JTP’s…there should be a good representation of full time workers on the job,” she wrote regarding the CLEANING of 429/430 building properties in Fort Totten, ignoring the obvious safety issues.
The Ceiling. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge
On Sunday Matt Symons forwarded the email to additional supervisors.
“From Nancy,” Symons wrote to two additional supervisors, “Please plan the completion of the project on the next rainy day. Thanks,”
On Monday the city tried again and this time sending in City Park Workers (CPW’s) to the job.
“We let our supervisors know that the conditions were horrible. Then they came to us with an email from the health and safety inspector saying that we could do it,” said Corey who began letting the Parks Department and his union rep know about the conditions shorty after 9:00am.
“Then they came to us with an email from the health and safety inspector saying that we could do it.”
Corey said a co-worker texted back to say that the structure of the building is bad, “but we were still told to go in there and work. Matt Symons texted and said we got the ok from Nancy Barthold. He said we got an email from her saying its ok to work in there.”
The email was blindly relied on by supervisors to represent that the building had been inspected and that it was safe for employees to work in said Corey.
“She couldn’t have went into 429 if she’d went into to 429 as soon as you go in you see the holes in the roof. I know she went to building 430. There’s no way she could have gone into 429 and deemed it safe.”
It turns out she hadn’t been in the building.
Ms. Barhold admitted during a meeting on Wednesday with Union DC 37 Health and Safety officials that she hadn’t gone into the building according to several people who attended the meeting.
“Unbelievable,” fumed Dilcy Benn, president of Local 1505 which represents CPW’s and who attended the meeting.
“What person in the right mind would say this building is safe, the smell alone would kill you.” she said.
I’m appalled that they would send my people in there with holes and without the proper equipment,” she continued.
“It’s insane. The building should have been tested for lead and asbestos. They cleared my workers to go in there. They don’t care. This is not the first time his has happened."
The house was littered with fecal matter. Steps leading to the second floor after workers began to sweep.
Ms. Benn said she tried to reach Nancy Barthold for more than six hours on Monday starting before the employees began to work but she was nowhere to be found.
“Nancy Barthold should be held accountable,” she said.
The workers were also sent in there wearing only a thin paper mask.
“Its an old building, does it have asbestos, lead, I know it has mildew. Weeds are growing through the floor, “ said Credell who is also currently being treated for prostate cancer.
“The smell is horrible, horrible,” he said noting that the building’s only ventilation come from the holes in the building.
“We asked about the ventilator masks but they said this mask is sufficient. We asked about that several times. Ben Gonzalez (a supervisor) tried to help get the proper masks but from what I was told Jimmy Ekhard said, ’that’s good enough.”’
As long as the job gets done they don’t give a damn. I’m pissed off about it.”
To add insult to injury Corey said he is also upset over how he was treated after the accident by a Parks Department supervisor.
Although the park headquarters is fifty yards away Corey said his supervisor James Ekhard never bothered to check to see how he was doing.
“He never left his desk to come see how I’m doing. How do you not come see how I’m doing. First off all you can’t get off your ass to see the building.
Corey said another suporvisor came from across town to see how he was doing and accompanied him to the hospital.
"Its crazy, I’m highly pissed off about it. It makes me what to change agencies. They don’t care about us. You have a fit ready to write me up when I come in late or call out yet you send me into a building that dangerous to my life.”
The Parks Department is required to have safety protocols in place which were clearly not in evidence but the fact that permission and pressure to work in the building came from the head of the agency’s health and safety division is particularly infuriating.
“You didn’t give a dam about my livelihood, You didn’t give a damn about my health or my life,” Corey said.
“You wrote that email saying its safe, you didn’t give a s**t. You didn’t care who got hurt, who got killed, nothing. How can you give an order like when you didn’t even check it out. Can you explain that. "
Despite several requests the Parks Department refused to even acknowledge several attempts seeking comment for this story including what, if any disciplinary action would be taken against Nancy Barthold.
“Safety is NYC Parks’ first priority,” the Parks Department’s press office said in a much used statement released to several media outlets.
“While no major injuries were sustained yesterday at Fort Totten, we are reevaluating and reinforcing our safety procedures on this project.”
Mr. Credell scoffed at the agency’s statement.
"How can they say, ‘no serious injures.” Nobody from parks came to see how I was going. How can they even say that. They don’t feel my pain.
“I feel angry and deceived, “ he continued.
"Action speaks louder than words. If safety is first how do you hire someone that doesn’t do their job. How do you get around that. This lady was hired - health and safety that’s big. How can you preach safety is their first priority. They don’t give a damn about us because if they did she would have done her job.
She’s the head of Health and Safety. So if she doesn’t do her job what about the people that are under her. You lead by example.
The Parks Department says their first priority is safety. That wasn’t done in this case. So now I want to know I’m going through this pain and suffering I’m the one that’s hurt, pain the suffering, what’s going to happen to her, still getting her pay check every two weeks.
I’m in major pain, my back and neck,” says Corey who is expected to be out for at least a month.
But it could have been even worse.
He says a worker had begun cleaning the feces from the steps leading up to the building’s second story where the floor was far more dangerous and where they were going to next.
“Had we started from top to bottom it would have been a different,” he said.
“It really could have been death and it goes back to again, her (Nancy) not giving a s**t about nobody. She really doesn’t care. The only thing she cares about is getting a paycheck every two weeks.
Someone has to be accountable for it.”
Letting The Buildings Rot
The Civil War-era military Fort Totten property contains dozens of buildings many of which are falling apart.
The incident occurred in Building 429, located on the corner of Whistler Avenue & Walter Reed Rd. in one of three remaining Capehart Houses that were built in 1959 for use as military housing. The city removed all but three of the houses and restored the area to green space but have failed to maintain the buildings since taking them over.
The incident occurred in building 429 one of three remaining Capehart Houses that were built in 1959 for military housing. The nondescript two story building is on the corner of Whistler Avenue & Walter Reed Rd. The city has failed to maintain the buildings since taking them over. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge
“A lot of the buildings are crumbing the city is not taking care of them,” he said.
“Most the buildings are essentially being left to rot. They’re not being maintained by the city resulting in the incident that happened with the park worker.”