LeFrak City is a collection of 18-story buildings located on 40 acres of land alongside the Long Island Expressway (LIE) in Queens, New York. These buildings contain over 5,000 apartments and are the homes to over 15,000 people.
The LeFrak Organization began construction on LeFrak City in 1960 on land that was formerly owned by William Waldorf Astor, the former site of Mary's Dump. After World War II, the area was full of small Quonset huts that held many veterans and their families. Samuel LeFrak decided that it was an ideal location for an apartment complex that would include, as he said "Total Facilities for Total Living". Construction was completed in 1969, and the cost was only $40 for each air-conditioned room. The apartments were quickly rented out, and the LeFrak Organization repeated their success by building Battery Park City in Manhattan, and Newport in Jersey City, New Jersey.
LeFrak City is still a popular apartment complex for low to middle income families in New York. It has gone through several periods of turmoil, with some drug and gang problems, but through it all it has been home to thousands of people.
Asbestos Use at LeFrak City
Throughout the 1960s, while LeFrak City was constructed, a common mineral used in many aspects of construction was asbestos. The cheap mineral was very durable and fire-retardant, making it nearly ideal for insulation and as a major ingredient in ceramic and vinyl tiles. Asbestos was mixed with other compounds to create these products. It was not until the mid 1970s that the dangers associated with asbestos became public. Asbestos dust, once airborne, is extremely hazardous to one's health if it's breathed in. Asbestos and asbestos products were used throughout LeFrak City, creating a potentially hazardous environment for the construction workers as well as for those who lived in the apartments. Nearly all were at risk.
Asbestos insulation was used to insulate the pipe systems that provided the heat, steam and hot water throughout the apartments. Asbestos containing tiles were used on the floors, and the boiler-rooms contained several asbestos products. Many employees or tenants who never worked directly with asbestos were still at risk as it was present throughout the entire facility. As asbestos insulation was applied, maintained and repaired it often put dust particles into the air that could have been inhaled by anyone.
At Risk for Mesothelioma and Other Asbestos Diseases
By the mid 1970s, strong evidence was uncovered regarding the health dangers associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos. Many who had worked with asbestos for extended periods of time were coming down with pulmonary diseases (such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis) from breathing asbestos dust.
The asbestos related diseases include:
- Mesothelioma: a type of cancer only caused by asbestos exposure that attacks the lining around the lungs and/or heart and/or abdomen. This cancer is not in the organs themselves, though untreated it will spread. The most common form is pleural mesothelioma (lung lining), then peritoneal mesothelioma (stomach lining), and then pericardial mesothelioma (heart lining).
- Asbestos Related Lung Cancer: while lung cancer can come from numerous sources, asbestos exposure can lead to the formation of a malignant tumor that blocks the air passages (common for smokers who were exposed to asbestos).
- Asbestosis: a pulmonary condition, only caused by exposure to asbestos, where scar tissue builds up in the lungs causing breathing problems and low blood flow.
The diseases associated with asbestos are similar in that their symptoms often do not appear for many years after exposure. It is not uncommon for someone to develop lung cancer after a 10 year lag between onset and initial exposure. Mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis often do not become apparent for 30 to 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos. Common symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pains, a dry hacking cough that sometimes contains blood.
The health problems associated with asbestos were not just isolated to people who worked directly with the product. The asbestos dust would spread easily through the air putting workers who never used it at risk. Family members were also at risk because workers would return home with the dust on their clothes, shoes and even hair.
There are different treatments available for patients suffering asbestos related cancers and diseases. These include, but are not limited to: chemotherapy and certain medications including Lovastatin which can be used as an antineoplastic agent preventing the growth of certain cancerous tumors, and Alimta® (also called Pemetrexed) which has been approved by the F.D.A. as a mesothelioma treatment.