Founded in 1844, in order to train educators, the Normal School in Albany evolved from a two year program to a four year program in 1890, and eventually became known as the New York State College for Teachers in 1914. In 1962, the college formally became a part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, and it was renamed State University of New York at Albany (SUNY Albany). Today, SUNY Albany boasts an enrollment of nearly 18,000 graduate and undergraduate students, covering three campuses in the Albany area.
SUNY Albany’s East Campus is its newest campus and was purchased in 1996. The complex, which formerly housed a pharmaceutical company, is composed of SUNY Albany’s Health Sciences and Cancer Research facilities. The school’s Downtown Campus, which is also the University’s oldest campus, is located one mile away from the New York State Capitol and housed the New York State College for Teachers from 1909-1966.
The SUNY at Albany main campus, also known as the Uptown Campus, was designed by Edward Durell Stone, a renowned American architect. The majority of its original buildings were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Uptown Campus features a central Academic Podium area, which includes four quadrangle dormitory complexes at its corners. This campus is also home to SUNY at Albany’s athletics complex, which includes the 4,500-seat SEFCU-University at Albany Arena and two of SUNY Albany’s main libraries, the University Library and the Science Library.
In recent years, workers employed in the construction and maintenance of the buildings at SUNY Albany have developed and died of mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was incorporated into dozens of building materials that were utilized throughout SUNY Albany’s campuses. Asbestos-containing fireproofing, joint compound, pipe covering, gaskets and asbestos floor tiles were used in the construction of many SUNY Albany buildings. Laborers who handled materials that contained asbestos or those who worked in the vicinity of others who did are at risk for developing an asbestos related disease, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Asbestos-containing joint compound was utilized in the construction of many buildings at SUNY Albany. Joint compound or mud, was used to fill in the seams between sheets of drywall. It was manufactured as either ready-mix (an application-ready product) or as dry mix (a powder that requires water to form a paste for application). When dry mix joint compound was prepared for use, the acts of pouring and mixing the powder with water released asbestos fibers into the air. After joint compound was applied, it was sanded down to a smooth surface for painting. Sanding joint compound also released asbestos dust and fibers into the air putting not only plasterers at risk for exposure, but others who also worked in the same vicinity.
Buildings throughout SUNY Albany’s downtown and uptown campuses were heated by steam produced in numerous boilers. The steam was transported from the boilers to the buildings through a system of pipes. Pipes, valves, pumps and boilers in the steam system were typically covered in asbestos-containing insulation. When maintenance or repairs were performed on the steam system, asbestos insulation was removed in order to access the equipment. When maintenance or repair work was completed, new asbestos insulation was applied. Removing and applying pipe covering, insulating cement and block insulation caused asbestos dust to become airborne, which workers inhaled.
In order to decrease sound levels within SUNY Albany dormitories, workers applied asbestos-containing acoustic plaster to the ceilings and walls. Similar to joint compound (mud), acoustic plaster was manufactured as a dry powder, and it was mixed with water in a bucket or tub, in order to prepare it for application. Mixing acoustic plaster released asbestos fibers, which workers inhaled.
Inhaling dust and particles from the application and maintenance of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk of developing serious health problems. Even those who were not in direct contact with asbestos materials remain at risk for the development of asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Many union and non-union laborers who worked on construction projects at SUNY Albany were employed by various contractors throughout New York State. If you or a loved one were once employed as a laborer at SUNY Albany and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.