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U.S. Centers for Disease Control Awards Grant to Queens College and Make the Road New York to Help Immigant Laborers

--Goal of Research Project Is to Improve Working Conditions in Post-Disaster Settings--

FLUSHING, N.Y., December 9, 2013 –The destruction of the World Trade Center has shown that conditions after disasters can be very dangerous, both short and long-term, for the workers involved in cleanup and reconstruction. Post-Superstorm Sandy workers may also be facing threats to health and safety.

Now, thanks to a federal grant of $547,000, the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS) at Queens College of the City University of New York and the immigrant-focused organization Make the Road New York, that will be less likely to occur. This two-year grant, which began September 30, 2013, was awarded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct research on improving working conditions for immigrant construction laborers in post-disaster reconstruction.

It is part of the federal government’s response to the needs created by Sandy’s devastation. This project will fill important gaps in knowledge about the prevalence of unsafe working conditions in this post-hurricane environment and will develop and test methods of addressing those hazards.

Says Steven Markowitz, M.D., director of the CBNS: “Given what we all learned from the illness of workers engaged in clean-up of Ground Zero, it is critical to prevent post-disaster workers from becoming ill when we are uncertain about the hazards. We do this by educating them and providing them with proper protective equipment.”  

Make the Road New York works with immigrant laborers in Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn, as well as Brentwood (Long Island). Once recruited for this project, the laborers will be trained and will conduct more than 200 worksite safety and health hazard assessments. Whatever is preventing, or helping to ensure, safe work conditions will be identified through focus groups and interviews.

As a result, CBNS and Make the Road New York expect to identify new training content and methods to address workplace safety and health hazards for immigrant workers.  This material will be disseminated to community groups, labor organizations, the public health community, and other concerned parties.

Other partners in this project include the CUNY School of Public Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New Perspectives, Inc., and Maria Brunette, PhD.

Make the Road New York (MRNY) is a non-profit, citywide, membership-led organization that builds the power of immigrant and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, education, and support services.  MRNY has 13,000+ members and operates four community centers in Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; Port Richmond, Staten Island; and Brentwood, Long Island. 

The Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College, CUNY, is an environmental and occupational health research institute that identifies and helps rectify environmental and occupational threats to human health. Its researchers continue to monitor and address the health risks of first responders at the World Trade Center, as well as workers in U.S. nuclear bomb plants. CBNS recently completed a four-year project monitoring air quality at street level throughout the city. Its director, Steven Markowitz, is an occupational medicine physician (MD and doctorate in epidemiology from Columbia University) who also serves on the faculty of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.


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