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Deconstruction Not Demolition

By Tom Ellis

RENSSELAER: Andrew Cuomo has now been governor for ten years. He constantly congratulates himself for being a wonderful forward-looking environmentalist and as someone serious about fighting climate change.

Missing from his action plans are commitments to detoxify the economy, reduce solid wastes, and correctly manage what we discard. I frequently observe tremendous amounts of materials placed out on the curb for disposal, much that could be recycled, reused, and composted.

I often read about buildings being demolished or see newly-vacant lots where “emergency demolitions” have occurred. Much of the demolished building waste ends up in the Dunn Waste Connections dump in Rensselaer, permitted by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in 2012 and opened in 2015, right next to the brand new 1000-plus student Rensselaer public school campus.

Contrary to what some assert, the opposite of constructing a building is not demolishing it, but deconstructing it. We have made little or no progress in NYS during the Andrew Cuomo decade enacting legislation, policies and regulations requiring buildings be designed so they can be eventually deconstructed rather than demolished.

It is the same old same old design and construct new buildings often using plenty of toxic materials, let buildings decay until they are no longer salvageable, suddenly and quickly tear them down when they start to collapse, throw away everything including plenty of reusable materials, and dump everything in the poor city of Rensselaer.

Reusing materials is much better for the environment and minimizing climate change than disposing and replacing them. Detoxifying the economy would improve public health. We need competent waste minimization leadership that neither DEC nor Cuomo care to provide.

Published in February/March 2021
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