Mold is a result, not a cause

Is RIOC Right To Blame Mold for the Cultural Center Shutdown?

Updated 1 year ago David Stone
Is RIOC Right To Blame Mold for the Cultural Center Shutdown?

Hazards left unfixed by RIOC during a three-year shutdown, from 2012 until 2015, are forcing a new five week closing at the Cultural Center. Plans for fixing the root problem — water leaking from the residential building above at 546 Main — are not on the to do list. It’s a mess, but don’t expect to see the last of it soon.

Mishandling Risks of Mold Exposure

RIOC blames “mold remediation” for the shutdown.

Fungal colonies, extensive enough to involve ceilings and floors in some areas, was erroneously described as “not harmful” by RIOC consultant Mike Russo in a meeting with Board Members on December 4th.

Mold and its dangers are frequently misunderstood, hobbled by inaccurate titles like “toxic” and “non toxic,” but the federal Centers for Disease Control has been clear that there is “…sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.”

CDC continues, “ Certain individuals with chronic respiratory disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression may be at increased risk for infection from molds.”

No distinction was drawn between hazardous and non hazardous molds. All mold is considered problematic, seriously so for certain vulnerable individual.

Nonetheless, when tests done in August revealed mold in multiple locations, RIOC failed to notify the public which continued to use the Cultural Center for meetings, training, practices and events. 

The lack of awareness showed up at a RIOC subcommittee meeting when Russo brushed off complaints by the Jewish Congregation leader Nina Lublin by saying the mold discovered was “not harmful,” an erroneous claim according to experts.

Well-respected Prevention magazine is even more clear:

“However, there is already plenty of evidence that all molds can potentially cause rashes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions (like hay fever), and asthma attacks. In people with weakened immune systems, they can cause serious lung infections.”

Seen in a video recorded and posted by the Roosevelt Islander blog, Russo added that the molds were a concern only for individuals like RIOC VP Shelton Haynes, who was seated across from him and  suffered allergic reactions when exposed to it.

That was also inaccurate.

Mold Is a Result, Not a Cause

Explaining the mold infestation to Lublin and RIOC Board Members, Russo said “some water leaked in,” which is the equivalent of saying some falls were formed recently when a river spilled over the Niagara Escarpment.

According to longtime observers — of both the Center and Niagara Falls — the situation is far from new or trivial.

One Cultural Center regular, after viewing remarks by Russo and Haynes on the video, replied angrily “It's all a shit show!”

The mold is caused by water leaks from 546 Main Street, above the Senior Center, that were present even before 2012. According to users, they were not fixed during the three-year closure.

That shutdown, it should serve as a warning, was projected to last six months. After three years and much more expense, RIOC reopened the facility, leaks and all.

Mold forcing a new shutdown and additional expense, just two years later, should surprise no one.

And while, on the video, Haynes and Russo point fingers at Urban American, owners of the building under which the Cultural Center was built, Haynes refused to comment on Urban American when asked about who was responsible for publication.

Haynes also avoided answering questions about possible culpability for RIOC’s contractor for work done from 2012 to 2015 and whoever at RIOC approved it for payment. Haynes demanded “more specificity.”

Whittled down to the essentials, the Cultural Center is stuck with a long term problem that is not targeted for repair during the current shutdown. 

Although every reliable guide lists fixing the leaks that invite mold as essential in any remediation project, RIOC has not included it in theirs.

As described in the subcommittee video, RIOC’s plan involves only removing mold from areas in the ceiling and floors at the Cultural Center and, after repairs, leaving the mold friendly environment unchanged.

Start the countdown clock for the next shutdown.

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