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Asbestos removal in Fitzgerald Gym contains benefits and consequences

Photo by Amanda Goldstein
Photo by Amanda Goldstein

Campus always seems to feel different after a long time away. The air seems lighter, hallways feel longer and buildings don’t look the same. However, this winter break many of the buildings at Queens College underwent many changes.

The Fitzgerald Gym is in the process of getting new floors and, because of that, undergoing a full asbestos removal. The procedure displaced many facilities in the gym such as the Fitness Center, classes and gym usage. There was no abestos in the Fitness Center.

Asbestos is classified as a human carcinogen, a substance causing cancer, and is composed of a set of natural mineral fibers. It became extremely popular in commercial buildings and homes in the early 1900s because of its resistance to heat and durability.

Despite its strengths, the use of asbestos declined in 1970s when it became evident the microscopic fibers could become airborne and inhaled. When inhaled, the fibers cling to the walls of the lungs becoming extremely hazardous and leading to many long-term respiratory problems such as Asbestosis and respiratory cancer.

The Fitness Center took all safety precautions due to the fact there was no asbestos in the facility, and remained open during the removal with a few modifications because of the construction.

“At first I was concerned about being open with the asbestos, but once I learned that it was only harmful long term it wasn’t as scary,” senior staff member Matt Cheng said.

The main hallway on the second was shut down, forcing the Fitness Center to be open from the back emergency exit.

“We adjusted to the best we could, but the health and well being of our members is the most important factor,” Fitness Center Coordinator Heather Barclay said.

The faculty posted signs instructing students and members how to get to the new temporary entrance for the week. The removal process and temporary displacement was supposed to be completed by Jan. 28 but wasn’t completed until that evening, which left the Fitness Center at a disadvantage.

“I wish that they would have started [the process] over break and finished before classes started. Or at least finished on time,” student Dina LaRosa said.
Having the facility tapped off made members unable to put their belongings in the lockers outside of the gym. In addition, if they didn’t bring a lock with them, they were unable to put it in the Men’s or Women’s locker rooms downstairs.

“The lack of space that we had for our members made the first week of classes difficult but we handled it well,” staff member Max Gazzara said.

In a few weeks, the fitness center itself will undergo renovations that will force the facility to shut down for a week. During this time they will also have a precautionary asbestos inspection.

The faculty already looked into temporary locations for its members to work out and plans on using the time to paint the gym, upgrade the machines and more day-time services.

“We are doing all that we can to accommodate our members during this inconvenience and I hope that they’re able to be patient with us,” Barclay said.

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