- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NEW YORK | Madison Square Garden will reopen Friday night for the New York Knicks‘ game against Washington following an asbestos scare that forced the postponement of a game Tuesday night.

“After receiving assurance from the city and environmental experts regarding the safety of the arena for our customers and employees, all events at Madison Square Garden, beginning with Friday night’s Knicks game, will go on as scheduled,” arena officials said in a statement Wednesday.

“We have been working with the appropriate experts to confirm the arena is safe since debris fell during overnight work Monday. We will announce the rescheduled date for the postponed Knicks vs. Magic game, in conjunction with the NBA, in the near future. We would like to thank the city for their assistance in this matter, and appreciate the patience of our fans.”

City environmental officials who inspected the 42-year-old sports and concert hall Tuesday afternoon gave it a clean bill of health.

Debris dislodged during a cleanup of an attic space triggered two air quality detectors, but subsequent testing revealed that the particles did not contain asbestos, city officials said. The finding came too late in the day to save the game Tuesday night against Orlando, which had already been postponed.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday that even though there was no health risk, the arena’s operators deserve credit for putting safety first.

“If they made any mistakes, they were mistakes in the direction of being cautious and they should be commended for that,” he said. “It turns out that our Department of Environmental Protection is very satisfied that there was no asbestos there. There were no risks, and if we had more time before they had to make a decision on the game, perhaps they wouldn’t have even canceled the game.”

The arena is in the midst of a major renovation that will revamp the seating, add new luxury suites and create a new entrance and new public concourses. Much of the heaviest construction has been scheduled for summer months, but some work is being done year round.

Work is expected to continue through the 2013-2014 NBA and NHL seasons.

It is unclear how much of that overhaul involves abating asbestos, or whether that kind of potentially hazardous work will be confined to the offseason.


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