PATERSON, NJ- The Passaic County Administration Building may have a rodent problem, at least if you consider a 15 foot inflatable rat greeting passersby a problem.

The rodent has been on display most mornings over the past several weeks courtesy of LiUNA Local 78, whose members are trained and employed in the field of asbestos remediation and removal, in protest of the hiring of West Caldwell based Superior Abatement as a subcontractor on the ongoing rehabilitation of the Passaic County Historic Courthouse Annex.

Earlier this year, the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders awarded a $7.9 million construction contract to H&S Construction and Mechanical of Elizabeth to repurpose the structure to house offices for the Passaic County Vicinage Family Probation Division. H&S further subcontracted work related to asbestos removal to Superior Abatement.

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According to court documents provided by LiUNA Local 78, Nick Petrovski, the owner and operator of Superior Abatement, pled guilty to “Fraud and False Statements” in relation to tax filings he made to the IRS between 2009 and 2014. Under an agreement with the United States Department of Justice, Petrovsky entered a plea of guilty to this act that resulted in a total tax due of $279,994.07 for the quarter ending June 30, 2012. Under the plea agreement the USDOJ would initiate no further criminal charges related to the other false filings. Petrovski was subsequently sentenced to three months in prison and a fine of at up to $250,000. After two postponements, Petrovski is currently scheduled to report to serve his sentence at Brooklyn MDC on January 8, 2018.

Saying that “asbestos remediation is not only a highly dangerous profession, it is also an industry fraught with contractors willing to take shortcuts and jeopardize the health and safety of their workers,” Robert Lewandowski, a spokesperson for  Laborers Local 78, suggested that their members are at the site every morning because when they “aren’t working on a project we are making sure other contractors meet our standards and treat their work seriously and their workers appropriately.” 

Members of Local 78 are, according to Lewandowski, the most skilled and professional workers and employers in the industry, and says that because the damaging effects of not handling asbestos properly may not appear until much later, “after the contractors are gone and the damage to one’s lungs is irreversible,” his members will continue to stage protests to “let contractors know we demand better” and to let “the workers know they deserve better.”

While H&S Construction and Mechanical offered no comment Superior Abatement said via email that “Local 78 is incorrect,” and that “Superior Abatement is completely compliant with all regulations in respect to this project.”