Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Shame of the World Trade Center "reconstruction" site.

The Empire State Building was built in 470 days. That's from the beginning of excavation work on January 22, 1930, to the grand opening of the building on May 1, 1931.

Today the site of the World Trade Center tragedy hasn't even been cleared yet, nearly seven full years after 9/11/2001.

The story is bad enough at one building....


It has blighted lower Manhattan for seven years since 9/11, and the doomed and darkened Deutsche Bank building is likely to be around for at least another year...

"We're hoping to have the building completely down by summer 2009," said [spokesman] Michael Murphy...

A source familiar with the site said that the precautions being taken "are ridiculous" ... "There's so many watchers being watched by other watchers," said one veteran hardhat ... "I've never experienced anything like this."...

...under the vigilant eyes of city and federal inspectors, abatement crews in double-layered suits and filtering masks hack away at the building. They use special tools that won't produce sparks or spew dust, but take much longer to get the job done.

One worker said current equipment takes up to an hour to cut a 10-inch pipe, whereas a traditional demolition saw would slice through it just a few minutes.

The workers are pulling out insulation, air-conditioning conduits, flooring, ceiling and walls, and every piece of material has to be wiped down and put in a hazardous-waste box.

Inspectors from the city Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies are at the site weekly, testing for asbestos and other toxins that could still be in the building, which was gashed open by falling debris on 9/11.

But no test has ever turned up evidence that the building contains hazardous materials, according to a source with knowledge of the results...

Well, one may think, being on the "safe side" is important, even if all that safety monitoring slows things down. Better safe than sorry! If you think that, think again.
Everyone failed them. The two firefighters killed in last year's inferno at the old Deutsche Bank building died as a result of a perfect storm of neglect and tragic mistakes, the FDNY's internal review of the fatal fire shows ...

The report ... blames the FDNY for not conducting mandatory inspections, the Buildings Department for not issuing a formal permit for demolition and the building's contractor for shoddy work that turned the condemned skyscraper into a death trap...

"It is stunning and disgusting," said Linda Graffagnino (widow of one of the firefighters). "There are so many people responsible who need to stand up and say they made mistakes."

The report also indicated the Buildings Department did not issue a demolition permit ... Instead, "alteration" permits were issued, which may have led to fewer inspections by agency personnel...
While at another building, things are pretty bad in another way...

by Steve Cuozzo

City University officials say they won't even think about taking down the hulk of Fiterman Hall, which casts a morbid pall over Ground Zero's north rim, until City Hall coughs up tens of millions of dollars more the school wants to put up its dream replacement....

CUNY Vice Chancellor Iris Weinshall as much as admitted to me that they'd rather let the macabre ruin remain if they can't get what they want.

That might well leave the blackened relic standing on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack - a prospect that makes the mind and heart recoil.

Having followed the disgraceful Fiterman saga for years, I couldn't believe what Weinshall appeared to say in a recent news story -- that CUNY would balk at taking the building down until it has all the dough it wants for a new one.

But Weinshall politely made clear to me last week she meant just that. She asked disingenuously, "Why would we want to have an empty space there?"

If this isn't a kind of shakedown, then New Yorkers are already dining and dancing on the top floor of a new World Trade Center.

... elected officials, the Downtown Alliance, Community Board 1 and landlords (including Larry Silverstein, who called it "the bane of my existence") -- every responsible voice for Lower Manhattan -- has called on CUNY and on three different governors to erase the blight.

But it hasn't happened, thanks to CUNY's foot-dragging and the same EPA micro-management that continues to delay the takedown of the old Deutsche Bank building nearby.

Now, at least, CUNY is slowly decontaminating Fiterman Hall and hopes to finish the job this fall. Won't that pave the way for demolition once the EPA finally blesses the deconstruction plan?

No. CUNY now says it first needs a total of $325 million to pay for a new facility -- compared to the mere $166 million price tag it cited a few years ago.

The price skyrocketed mainly because CUNY keeps enlarging the job. Once, the project was about simply replacing Fiterman's classrooms; now it's swelled from 300,000 to 364,000 square feet and includes computer labs, lounges and an espresso bar.

CUNY has already secured city, state, federal and insurance funds -- but is still $71 million short of what it wants. So it asked Mayor Bloomberg to kick in. Not surprisingly, given the city's fragile finances and CUNY's insatiable appetite, he said no.

Now, Weinshall is standing by the indefensible and preposterous idea that having a cleared site would be worse than letting Fiterman stand.

"From CUNY's perspective, just to have empty space there would not serve the college's need of . . . space for students, nor would it serve the neighborhood," she said.

Of course, by that logic -- the undesirability of "empty space" -- we oughtn't to have cleaned up the Ground Zero crater after 9/11, but let the nightmarish rubble fester indefinitely.

Weinshall acknowledged that Fiterman is an "eyesore" and that "I don't like looking at that building." So I asked her repeatedly: How can CUNY justify delaying demolishing it?

She and CUNY flack Jay Hershenson took turns changing the subject to BMCC's need for more classroom space...

New York City, in 70 short years, has morphed from the world's "Can Do!" metropolis to a place where "can't do" inept bureaucracies rule and functionaries who are supposed to serve the local government ("City University") extort the expansion of their fiefdoms from it by threatening the public welfare.

Let the rest of America note and beware. It can happen to you.