Officials Concerned About Air Quality In Rockaway Homes
Some New Yorkers in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy say they are coming down with bad coughs and sometimes having trouble breathing. The city says the air outside is safe to breathe, but it's the air inside homes that officials are worried about. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
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The air in the Rockaways may be dusty and taste dirty, but city officials say it is safe.
"Just generally speaking, we haven't seen an impact from Sandy," said Carter Strickland, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
The state maintains a number of air monitors throughout the five boroughs, but there are none in the Rockaways or anywhere near the coast in Queens and Brooklyn.
The state is expected to be bringing in three additional monitors for areas most affected by the storm, and Strickland said his department has done additional testing of debris piles on its own.
"We haven't found asbestos in the air there," Strickland said. "So that, again, is a good story."
But even if the air outside is safe, there is still plenty of dust in it, dust that is getting in people's eyes and down their throats.
"Everybody that lives here has what they are calling the Rockaway cough and bacterial infections," said one resident.
"I think between the cold air and the quality of the air, I think that contributed to the coughing," said a second.
Local Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has called on the city to test the air and water in southern Queens and in the Rockaways on a daily basis. He wants the results shared with the public.
"If we are being told 'the air is safe, the water is safe,' then show us the results and make that information public so people can feel safe bringing their families and their children back into the neighborhood," Goldfeder said.
The state does post air quality results from individual monitoring stations on its website, but the information is not presented in a user-friendly manner.
It seems, though, that the air inside homes is the bigger concern. At a meeting on Staten Island last week, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley told residents to wear a simple dust mask when cleaning their homes. He urged them to wear a more protective mask if doing construction work or tearing out sheetrock.
"Please use that so that you don't have asthma a year from now as a result of your exposures over the next couple of weeks," Farley said.
For now, many residents are just worried about their colds.