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Asbestos Truck Spotted Outside Chambord Building: What We Know

by Stephanie Spear
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A massive, two-day fire in December 2021 destroyed the Chambord Building, located at 38 Jackson Street in Hoboken. Several local businesses were displaced, and sadly, two people died. The fire was later determined to be accidental and caused by flammable material in one of the retail stores in the building. Now, the space is being torn down for reconstruction — but neighbors were quick to spot an asbestos removal truck outside the building this week and started asking if the appropriate safety precautions were being taken. Read on for the latest on future plans for the property and what’s happening with the supposed asbestos situation.

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The Chambord Building – Future Plans

At the time of its demise, the Chambord Building was home to many small businesses. It was originally built in 1900 and was a total of 200,000 square feet over five stories. It was previously the Davis Baking Powder Factory and the My-T Fine Pudding factory and has been an iconic part of Hoboken’s architectural and industrial history. The building has been a literal cornerstone of the development of the Southwestern corner of Hoboken: it faces the Southwest Resiliency Park.

Despite the building fire in December 2021, plans were underway throughout the year to convert the industrial space into a mixed-use development. In April 2022, plans were approved for the new vision for the space. The development will include retail and restaurant spaces, as well as 123 apartments. Several of the apartments will be set aside for affordable housing units. The building will be expanded from five stories to nine, and a 250+ space parking garage will be added.

The Hoboken Girl spoke with Nick Petruzzelli about the project. Nick is the Managing Partner of the Taurasi Group, which is the managing group of the project. Nick said that he lives two blocks away from the property and is excited about what’s to come. 

“To build something like this in Southwest Hoboken has been a dream of mine,” he said. “To have a grocery store, retail, restaurants, a place to hang out and be with our kids, I’m really excited.” Nick spoke about some of the process that happens behind the scenes. “In order to do anything, it has to be permitted and inspected by both the city and state,” he told HG. “In terms of the abatement, we had to have everything signed off before we could even get going.”

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The asbestos removal taking place now is something that has been in the works a long time, Nick said. “We’ve been doing remediation for nearly two months and this removal is practically the end of the whole process,” he commented. “We have to remove the asbestos before we can do an demolition.”

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According to Nick, the asbestos is limited to the roof of the building. “Old buildings used tar for roofing material, so we have to get rid of that,” he explained. There were a handful of fiberglass panels inside the building that needed to be removed as well. “All of this work was pre-planned with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as well as the City of Hoboken,” he said.

For the asbestos abatement work, Nick added that there were even more strictures in place. “We had to hire a licensed crew who follows a very specific process,” he said. “They cut up the material and bag it before it is removed from the property. This isn’t the type of work that anyone could do,” he told us. “If we were to take a crane and start crushing [the building], asbestos will be released into the air. Now, instead, the crew is cutting it and removing it properly. The work is being done very gingerly to minimize risk.” Once the abatement process is complete, another inspection will occur before the team can begin demolition.

When asked about local concerns about exposure to asbestos, Nick said that since he is a neighbor of the property, he is concerned as well. “I’ve lived here for 22 years, I’m just as concerned as everyone else,” he said. “I want neighbors to know that this is a very deliberate, well-supervised process to remove these materials.” He went on to say that in terms of risks presented by the building, there was more toxic material emitted from the fire than from the asbestos abatement.

Nick encourages neighbors who have concerns to reach out to him directly. “I’m happy to inform anyone that reaches out to me or talks to anyone on the site. We can talk and explain how the process works.” When asked about future plans for proactive outreach to neighbors about the ongoing work, he did not have anything in mind. 

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What’s Happening Now

Neighbors have shared photos online of a professional asbestos remediation crew working on the space. While the crew has proper PPE for the hazards presented by this type of work, no notice or warning was provided to neighbors. Ward 4 Councilman Ruben Ramos Jr., who represents the neighborhood where the building is located, said, “We’ve been told that the risk is only localized to the building, no risk to neighbors. The work has been properly permitted, signed off on by the City of Hoboken’s construction office, and all of the PPE is standard protocol. The work is overseen by state inspectors who visit the site routinely.”  

He went on to say, “I’ve spoken to the City building code official frequently, including this week, and there’s no health hazard to anyone in the surrounding area.”

“I’ve talked frequently with the building owner and property manager. It’s an exciting project for the neighborhood, with the retail possibilities and bringing a grocery store to Southwestern Hoboken,” Councilman Ramos continued. “This project will make Southwestern Hoboken a destination, along with the expansion of the Southwestern Resiliency Park. We will make sure all the construction is done safely within all of the codes. We will protect both people working on the property and people who live nearby the property.”

Per a Nixle update that was sent out at 5PM on August 17th, the asbestos removal is expected to be finished by Friday, August 19th. “Currently, the property owners are conducting asbestos abatement operations through a licensed New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) approved vendor per City and State construction codes and permitting by the NJDEP,” the statement reads.

The Hoboken Girl reached out to Hoboken Officials for a comment — and the City echoed what it said in the above Nixle statement. 

The Hoboken Girl has also reached out to the company performing the work and has not yet heard back. 

What Neighbors are Saying

A Facebook group called the Southwest Resiliency Park Alliance is made up of neighbors of the property. Several neighbors have expressed concern with both the work being done and the lack of communication from the property owners about it.

The Hoboken Girl also spoke with a handful of former tenants of the Chambord Building. Jen Prado, co-owner of Casa Klado along with her husband Jesse, said that she suspected an asbestos encounter during her tenancy. “When we got our space, it had been a storage closet, so we had to fix it up,” she said. “We were scraping the ceiling and some dust came down that we joked was asbestos. Now, we walk by and see the signs confirming that it was asbestos.” 

Jen said that while it was funny at the time, it’s not anymore. “We live nearby, and the the only way we discovered this was that we literally walked by and saw the signs outside the building.” Jen also noted that not only were the workers wearing PPE, the waste being removed was being bagged securely. “It wasn’t like typical construction debris,” she noted. “It was all being put into bags and sealed before being taken away.” Jen said that seeing the waste handled in this manner was concerning, as that meant toxic waste was once building material.

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Another former Chambord tenant, Paulo Salud, owner of Grayscale Studios, said that during his tenancy, he got the sense that the building owners weren’t that invested in the space. “Anything that was broken would get repaired, but there was nothing proactive about the way the building was handled, no improvements being made,” he explained. “I would ask for information about something, or permission to do something, and I always got a yes, which sounds great but it just shows that they were on auto-pilot.”

While Paulo didn’t encounter any asbestos during his tenancy, the fact that this is happening now fits a pattern, he says. “It definitely shows the negligence continually displayed by the property owners,” he commented. “Even if there had been asbestos in the property while we were there, the owners would not have communicated that.”

Al Barsky, owner and founder of the Barsky Gallery, was a tenant in the Chambord Building for 11 years before the fire. His studio is now at the Mission 50 building which is just around the block from the Chambord Building. “I walked by and I saw the [asbestos removal company’s] truck. I spoke to the crew and they confirmed that there was asbestos on the roof,” he said. “The asbestos removal is happening as part of the process of preparing the building for demolition. I have never heard from or spoken with anyone regarding asbestos in the building.”

Al added, “The building changed ownership 3 times during my time there and the maintenance was always terrible.” He went on to say that “everything in my space, vestibule, common area, I did myself, paid for myself. everything was done by me. I tried to beautify my area. It’s an art gallery, so I need to make it aesthetically pleasing. I hired labor as needed. The building ownership never really did anything as far as keeping up with any maintenance.” 

The Hoboken Girl will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

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