Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 4

Criminal investigations by the Manhattan District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, are proceeding.
Prosecutors from the DA's Rackets Bureau will work with fire marshals and any other interested agencies to determine whether any criminal violations occurred by the construction company dismantling the building.

The president of the firefighters union said that he thinks conducting a criminal investigation is the right thing to do.

“We think that it's critically important that the Manhattan district attorney run an investigation,” said Uniformed Firefighters Association President Stephen Cassidy. “He has subpoena power. We want people subpoenaed, put under oath, and asked questions, and we want the truth and we think we're only going to get it when people are put under oath.”

Fire officials say the contractors failed to maintain a standpipe that was supposed to deliver water to firefighters. Instead, firefighters found the standpipe disconnected and were forced to haul hoses up the side of the building using ropes.
A separate investigation by State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has also begun, with the criminal investigation taking precedence. Criminal charges may be warranted depending on the findings by Morgenthau's office.

The disasterous fire at the Deutsche Bank building that killed two firefighters on Saturday may force work at Ground Zero to grind to a halt because of delays to the Deutsche Bank deconstruction is where access to the rest of Ground Zero is supposed to occur.
If the delay drags on, there's no telling how badly it might derail the reclamation of a site that has taken six years to gain traction.

The importance of the Liberty Street demolition was explained in detail by The New York Times' David W. Dunlap last winter. For starters, the site must be cleared before the LMDC can turn it over to the Port Authority, which will then hand it over to JP Morgan Chase to start work on its planned new headquarters tower there.

The PA technically has until mid-2009 to turn the land over to the bank - but that's based on an option to extend a more desirable deadline of mid-2008. Who can say how JP Morgan's confidence in the deal might be jarred by a year's delay?

The Deutsche site, as Dunlap explained, is also intricately linked to conditions on the north side of Liberty Street in Ground Zero itself. In a nutshell, the PA can't fulfill its commitment to construct new underground infrastructure there without first having access to the earth beneath 130 Liberty St., because the two sites are connected by sewer pipes.

Without being able to dig under 130 Liberty St. and moving the pipes, the PA can't create a new "bathtub" along Ground Zero's south side. Without the bathtub, it can't build an underground vehicle security center there.
If the bathtub can't be built, delays ripple through the construction process for the other buildings at Ground Zero, including the Freedom Tower. Those delays translate into delayed entry of tenants and the finishing of interior spaces.

Gothamist has a roundup of news reports, and includes a bit about how the FDNY may have been operating off outdated information on the building and that they may have ignored a McKinsey consultant's report post-9/11 that noted that the FDNY sent in too many firefighters into the WTC complex before contemplating the extent of the situation. There are more questions than answers at this point, including whose responsibility was it to test standpipes in the building, and whether Bovis Lend Lease or John Galt Corp. were skirting the safety rules and regulations in order to complete demolition on schedule.

John Galt Corp., the subcontractor responsible for deconstruction, has been given five days notice of its termination from the project.
The John Galt Corp., which was conducting most of the work at the site, was given five days notice before its contract is terminated. The decision was made by Bovis Lend Lease, the company managing the dismantling of the former Deutsche Bank office building.

In a letter to Galt executives, Bovis executive James Abadie wrote that in recent weeks, "and most notably in the days following the tragic accident that occurred at the project site on Aug. 18, Galt has demonstrated an inability to comply with the terms of its trade contract with respect to site supervision, maintenance and project safety.''

A message left Wednesday for Galt, which employed about 200 workers on the project, wasn't immediately returned.
It appears that Bovis is trying to distance itself from Galt's potential liabilities, as the investigations focus in on the actions of the contractors and those responsible for safety and oversight at the deconstruction site. This is too little, too late, as Bovis will likely be brought in as the deep pockets, among the City and State.

Fox5NY has reported that inspections of Fiterman Hall, which needs to be deconstructed in the same fashion as Deutsche Bank, have found no problems with the sprinkler systems and standpipes.

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