Built in the late 1800s, Grand Central Station is one of the most familiar and beloved buildings in the United States. The Midtown Manhattan station also is the largest train station in the entire world, with 67 tracks and 44 platforms.
Since the early 1900s, Grand Central Station has received many restorations and undergone many changes. After the boom of suburbs and cars following World War II, business at the station began to seriously decline. The need for railroads was questioned and, in the mid-1950s, there was talk of closing the station and possible demolition. Luckily, that idea never came to fruition and Grand Central Station was eventually declared a national landmark. By 1998, Grand Central Station was owned and operated by Metro-North, a division of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Asbestos Was Used in Building the Grand Central Station
To insulate the underground pipes at Grand Central Station, asbestos materials were widely used. Pipefitters who worked in the underground tunnels were nicknamed “the snowmen of Grand Central” because they often were covered in white asbestos dust. Many of these pipefitters were not aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure until 1987, even though reports began to emerge about the hazardous material in the 1970s. Only in the late 1980s were pipefitters given the proper protection for their lungs. Unfortunately, workers often were given respirators that didn’t fit properly. Workers also were required to use plastic bags were to hold asbestos materials, even though the bags often would melt from the heat in the train tunnels, allowing dangerous asbestos to spread through the air.
Tragically, an underground steam pipe explosion in 2007 brought to light the large amount of asbestos that remains underground in New York City. The street was left with a huge hole caused by the explosion, which spewed a significant amount of asbestos into the air. Since the debris also contained water and steam, it is believed that the combination significantly weakened the asbestos fibers that became airborne. However, a little over half of the collected air samples contained the hazardous material. Anyone who worked to repair the damage or may have come into contact with asbestos were advised to dispose of their clothing and shower immediately.
Grand Central Station Asbestos Litigation
The high frequency of asbestos in Grand Central Station has resulted in numerous lawsuits against Metro-North, including those filed by pipefitters who say they were never properly protected from asbestos or informed of the danger until 1987. Even then, workers claim that minimal safety procedures were actually followed or enacted by Metro-North.
It has since been determined that Metro-North has been seriously negligent in protecting the health and safety of its workers. Many workers certainly will begin to experience symptoms of possible asbestos-related lung conditions or even mesothelioma in the future. Some workers who have sued Metro-North have won compensation from the courts to cover future medical care and costs.