Waste, Toxic Homes

The other day I passed by a Manhattan condo renovation and saw they were throwing out good stuff: metal studds and flooring. The contractor told me it was a 3,000 sq.ft. condo that right before the current gut reno it had just been gut renovated!

It had high end everything: Poggen Pohl German kitchen, slate counters, wide plank oak floors, and all the other luxuries a top of the line Manhattan condo should have.


The good news is that we will be able to salvage the kitchen since we got it before they ripped it out.


The fancy renovation had gotten it sold for $1.8 million.

What does the buyer do after buying the brand new condo? Gut it of course!

The brand new floor, the pristine bathrooms, the imported kitchen: all ripped out and sent to the dump!

I explained to the contractor that maybe we should try to salvage some of it.

I offered to bring my guys in and deconstruct the space. He saves on labor and dumpsters so was into it.

He had already ripped out 1000 sq.ft. of the gorgeous floor but there was still 2000 left.

So my team set about trying to pull it up. But to our dismay the previous contractor had glued the planks down with heavy duty adhesive. We couldn’t get the planks up without ripping them apart.

This is the tragedy of bad design. They design with absolutely no vision of what will happen to the materials in the future. It is 100% cradle to grave thinking instead of cradle to cradle.

So we watched in sorrow as god only knows how many trees were splintered and thrown into the dumpster. Somebody cut the trees down, they milled the wood, they transported it, installed the floors, and now somebody else is paying to rip it up and dump it.

On top of this, when we tried to pull up the floors we were met with toxic fumes from the glue. Nobody denies the fumes cause cancer. It says so on the product label. But everyone goes into complete denial once the product is smeared over the entire apartment floor. Somehow it miraculously stops being cancerous.

Yet as green builders who often clean up after ignorant builders and we see the dirty lie.

We see how the entire “high end” condo is seeped in a toxic floor of slow cancer. Over the years as the children play and the parents entertain, they will constantly be immersed in a cloud of chemicals that will effect the whole family with respiratory issues, headaches, mood swings, sugar and alcohol cravings and fuzzy head syndrome.

It won’t be bad enough to pinpoint and will simply be accepted as the reality of being human.

And then, many years later when the children are grown up they will have no idea why they have breast cancer, lung cancer or prostate cancer.

The whole thing is stupid. “Civilized society” my ass.


Four of my guys worked for three hours and salvaged maybe 20sq.ft. of scraggly planks. The rest were too splintered to use.

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

3 comments to “Waste, Toxic Homes”

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  1. Gennaro Brooks-Church - June 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    During their interviews with me, almost all my workers mention the waste they have seen in their previous NY construction jobs and they site that as one of the reasons they want to work for Eco Brooklyn.

    Never having worked in wasteful Manhattan companies I didn’t really know what they were talking about and partly thought they were exaggerating to get the job.

    But now that I get jobs in Manhattan I see they were far from exaggerating. Just the other day I turned down a job because the client wanted to tear out the entire floor and replace it with a new one of a different color.

    I guess I could have salvaged the floor for another job but I decided to use my time in a more effective way. It is not about being holier than thou, it is just a practical matter of where one’s efforts make the most impact ecologically.

  2. Heather Y - June 7, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I too, feel that this sort of waste is a tragedy, a sin and a shame.

    Yet when I had read just the first paragraph,I burst out laughing, because this is done again and again in our city!

    They buy a high end condo for megabucks and rip it apart, spend more megabucks getting it done _all -over.

    In addition, it is the stuff they are tossing that cranked up the price of the condo a few tens of thousands for the buyer!

    Wastrels. Spendthrifts (someone else’s thrift). SUCKERS.

    This SHOULD be in the Times – the real estate section.

    Someone needs to bring the _absurdity_ of this pattern of behaviour to the attention of the readers of that section– in fact,to GET IT IN THEIR FACE with it.

  3. anna - June 6, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    This should be in the New York Times.

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