Monday, August 18, 2008

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 45

The delays keep on rolling for the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building. The building was supposed to already have been razed, but a fire last August resulted in the deaths of two firefighters and a closer inspection of the demolition process. The building was supposed to have been demolished by July 2007. Then mid 2008.

That was still too optimistic.

We're now looking at summer 2009. We've got inspectors looking after inspectors, making this demolition project the most byzantine in the city with red tape. Jobs within the project that should take a few minutes are dragged out for hours as inspectors check every last bit.

Because of the stigma attached to the building following the deadly fire last year, every city agency that has a stake in the building is going by the book.

The cost for the demolition alone? $272 million.

The families of the two firefighters are still waiting for answers and justice.

Meanwhile, Fiterman Hall is in need of demolition as well, and that work has barely started. The LMDC website says that decontamination has been underway and deconstruction of the building should take place in late summer. Well, late summer is already here, and still no outwards signs of deconstruction.

Some of the problems at Fiterman are a direct result of the issues with the Deutsche Bank building, namely the decontamination of the structure followed by the razing. With increased scrutiny and multiple layers of inspections, the pace has slowed to a crawl.

At the same time, costs for the 9/11 memorial continue soaring and there is concern that the memorial will not be ready in time for the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in history.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau is contemplating racketeering and embezzlement charges against John Galt company in connection with last summer's deadly fire that killed two firefighters, Joseph Graffagnino Jr. and Bobby Beddia:
Among the issues being probed is that officials from John Galt Corp., which was subcontracted by Bovis Lend Lease to raze the tower, laundered millions of dollars through various shell companies, sources said yesterday.

Another is whether Galt the inspectors it hired ignored safety guidelines in dismantling the toxic building, including the removal of a standpipe necessary for getting water to the hoses.

The floors and stairwells were also littered with debris that created a maze-like hazard for firefighters.

The Aug. 18, 2007, blaze was sparked by workers smoking on the site and compounded by a confusing maze of environmentally sealed barriers along with the dismantled standpipe that left the firefighters without any water.

Also facing heat is the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. over its management - or mismanagement - of the job.
Investigators found that 40 feet of standpipe had been cut in the basement, which meant that there was no water that could be sent to firefighters in the building through the building's pipes. The FDNY and Buildings Department are also on the hook because they failed to conduct inspections of the building that would have found the unsafe conditions.

Today marks the one year anniversary of Beddia and Graffagino's deaths and the FDNY still hasn't released its own report on why the building wasn't inspected prior to the fire, even though a firehouse is stationed next door.

Meanwhile, CUNY is using Fiterman Hall to shake down the City; if CUNY doesn't get what it wants, they wont move forward on the demolition. It was never entirely clear why the building would need demolition if it was decontaminated like the other buildings around Ground Zero - like 100 Church and 90 Church next door. Yet, CUNY held out to raze the building because they wanted something shiny and new. So, the building remains shrouded in a perpetual stupor and a blight on the North side of Ground Zero.

Here are a bunch of photos I took earlier today of the Deutsche Bank building and Fiterman Hall. The first two photos are of the Deutsche Bank building and the sidewalk shed designed to protect people from falling debris (an all too frequent occurrence at the building). The second two photos are of Fiterman Hall and the square that fronts 7WTC:




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