Digest, Week of June 13, 2012

One and Four World Trade Center survive small blazes  |   A small, fenced-in area on the eighth floor of Four W.T.C. caught fire the morning of Tues., June 12, but the blaze was swiftly stifled, according to a spokesperson for the Fire Department of New York (F.D.N.Y.).

The fire, which began inside a 100-square-foot construction enclosure, was called in at 11:19 a.m. Although 60 firefighters were on the scene within five minutes, the flame was small enough that many of them were released from the scene soon thereafter, the F.D.N.Y. spokesperson said.

There were no injuries, and officials said that there was no structural damage to the building.

“The main body of the fire was knocked down extremely quickly,” said the spokesperson, adding that the blaze was completely controlled within 30 minutes.

Silverstein Properties, the building’s developer, didn’t provide comment by press time.

The Four W.T.C. blaze followed a similar event on Sat., June 2, in which wooden decking supporting the 89th floor of One W.T.C. caught fire shortly after dawn, according to an Associated Press report.

According to the news report, the F.D.N.Y. received the emergency call at 7:15 that morning and rushed to the construction site to help on-site workers extinguish the blaze. While the workers had put out most of the fire themselves, firefighters were still at the scene spraying the area an hour after they were called for help.

By about 9 a.m., the fire was completely out.

Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the site’s owner, subsequently released a statement to the press saying that the incident was “very localized” and that there were no injuries or structural damage to the building.

Foye described the scene, saying, “After discovering smoldering plywood on an upper floor, workers used hand-held fire extinguishers to control the situation, and the F.D.N.Y. responded to extinguish the condition.”

Nevertheless, as a result of the incident, the Port Authority along with the other relevant parties are conducting an “after-action review” to assess the response to the fire and make any necessary recommendations for improvement.

“The Port Authority has standing weekly meetings with the F.D.N.Y. to provide updates on construction progress and site operations,” said Foye. “As [this incident] proved, these briefings are invaluable to ensuring the utmost coordination for all activities on site.”

Obama visits World Trade Center  |  President Barack Obama is set to return to the W.T.C. site on Thurs., June 14 to check up on the construction progress, according to a White House official. It marks the president’s first appearance at Ground Zero since last September, when he commemorated the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In addition to being briefed on the work status of both the W.T.C. buildings and the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum, Obama’s presence will serve as “a preview of the One W.T.C. topping-out ceremony,” said the White House official. A topping-out ceremony is a construction industry tradition symbolizing the near-completion of a building’s framework.

Obama is also expected to sign a structural beam as it is being installed at the site, according to the Daily News.

Service to and from the World Trade Center PATH station is subject to suspension between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thurs., June 14, according to the Port Authority.

Dance New Amsterdam victoriously renews its lease   |  On Fri., June 1, Dance New Amsterdam (D.N.A.), a local dance education and performance center, recently announced it will be staying put in the Sun Building, after all.

The lease agreement follows three years of ongoing negotiations between D.N.A.’s executive and artistic director Catherine Peila and the space’s landlord, real estate and management company Fram Realty. Had a settlement not been reached, D.N.A., Downtown’s first post-9/11 nonprofit, faced eviction and closure, since it couldn’t have afforded the monthly rent that would have escalated to $90,000 per month in the year 2020.

D.N.A.’s new lease reduces its monthly rent payments considerably and saves the company upwards of $4 million over the next several years, according to Peila, who described the process as “exciting” and “fulfilling” and held a press conference in its 130-seat theater on Fri., June 1 to relay the good news.

Peila was hired in 2008 to restructure the organization, which at the time was in deep financial trouble, according to D.N.A. The nonprofit is responsible for maintaining its two-floor space at 280 Broadway, including bathrooms, floors, heat and theater equipment for an estimated 32,000 artists, educators and audience members who use it annually.

“We are now better positioned to further stabilize, implement educational programs and support artists’ creative process from studio-to-stage and beyond,” said Peila, adding that D.N.A. would “continue to fight to stay alive and thrive in Lower Manhattan.”

NYS Senator Daniel Squadron, who helped facilitate the discussions between D.N.A. and Fram Realty, applauded the agreement, saying it proves that“it’s possible to find paths forward for community-based cultural organizations and the invaluable work they do.”

State Senate passes intercity bus permit law, feds shut down 26 bus companies  |   The New York State Senate passed legislation to create the first-ever permit system for intercity buses on Tues., June 12, according to an announcement made by State Senator Daniel Squadron.

The law, which gives the city the power to regulate the bus industry and designate pick-up and drop-off locations, was introduced by Squadron and State Assembly Member Sheldon Silver in April.

The city-authorized permits are meant to “help end Chinatown’s ‘wild west’ atmosphere, while allowing the city and state to identify problems before they become tragedies,” said Squadron.

The legislation requires the city to consult with local community boards and allows for a 45-day comment period prior to issuing permits for pick-up and drop-off locations. Under the law, the city could also oblige bus companies to provide information about their buses, the number of passengers they are carrying and where they are parked when the vehicles aren’t in use.

The state law’s passage came on the heels of an announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thurs., May 31 that it had shut down 26 intercity bus operators deemed to be imminent hazards to public safety — marking the largest single safety crackdown in the D.O.T.’s history.

According to data provided by the federal D.O.T., the 26 bus operators were subsidiaries of three primary companies, two of which were based in New York City.

Apex Bus, Inc. and I-95 Coach Inc., both based in New York, were shut down along with their ten and six subsidiary operators, respectively. The third company, New Century Travel, Inc., was based in Philadelphia and controlled ten bus operators.

Safety investigators from the D.O.T.’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (F.M.C.S.A.) found that all of the carriers held multiple safety violations, including hiring drivers without valid driver’s licenses and failing to conduct alcohol and drug tests of the drivers.

Cuomo nominates longtime ally to chair B.P.C.A.  |  NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo will nominate former lieutenant governor candidate Dennis Mehiel to become the Battery Park City Authority’s next chairman, according to the New York Daily News.

Mehiel will take the seat that was vacated by former city comptroller William Thompson, who resigned the B.P.C.A. chair position last month to prepare for his upcoming mayoral bid.

Last year, Cuomo appointed Mehiel — who originally made his name and fortune as the founder of a corrugated shipping container company — to serve on the board of the Empire State Development Corp.

Since 2009, Mehiel has contributed $92,000 to Cuomo’s political campaigns, according to the Daily News. His wife, Karen, has also donated $44,862.

River to River Festival brings music and art Downtown  |   The River to River Festival, which features free music and arts programming throughout Lower Manhattan, will enter its 2012 season with a run from Sun., June 17 through Sun., July 15. The festival has events scheduled seven days a week, and includes both live performances and commissioned work from major artists.

This year’s festival kicks off with the 25th anniversary of “Bang On a Can” Marathon, which will take place on Sun., June 17 from noon to midnight at the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Other performance highlights will include the Phillip Glass Ensemble, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic and movies from Tribeca Film.

For more information and events listings, visit www.rivertorivernyc.com.

9/11 Memorial launches online recovery timeline  |  The National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum has launched a web-based interactive timeline of the rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Ground Zero Recovery Timeline — which spans from Sept. 12, 2001 to May 30, 2002 — creates a multimedia landscape using images, oral histories and video, chronicling the relief work performed at the W.T.C. site. Recovery operations formally ended on May 30, 2002, marked by a ceremony in which the iconic “last column” was removed from the site. The initiative is a sequel to the 9/11 Memorial’s original timeline, which highlights the events of the day of the attacks.

The Museum is also developing a Recovery and Relief Workers Registry and Scroll of Honor, which will be a permanent installation near the “last column” in the future 9/11 Memorial Museum.

The timeline can be viewed at https://timeline.national911memorial.org.

D.O.T. responds to noise complaints over Brooklyn Bridge construction  |  In an effort to reduce construction noise coming from the Brooklyn Bridge, the city Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) has shifted its work schedule to curtail weeknight hours and implemented new noise mitigation measures, according to a letter from D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

The letter, dated May 8, was sent to NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who had written to Sadik-Khan several times on behalf of Lower Manhattan residents who were disturbed by the construction work. In Silver’s most recent letter to the D.O.T., dated March 22, he wrote that previous measures taken to reduce noise proved to be insufficient.

Silver also called on the D.O.T. to stop issuing variances that authorize noisy work outside the permitted hours of Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In response, Sadik-Khan wrote that the Department’s new sound modifications include the installation of mufflers and sound curtains as well as the relocation of recycling equipment to areas that are farther away from residential buildings. The D.O.T. will also be replacing equipment such as jackhammers, saws and rivet busters, which are known to generate the most noise.

Sadik-Khan also wrote that the bridge’s construction team would expand work hours on weekend days in order to cut down on weeknight work and advance as quickly as possible in the area closest to Southbridge Towers, whose residents Silver mentioned specifically in his correspondence.

John Ost, a member of the Southbridge Towers Board of Directors, acknowledged that noise coming from the bridge has “decreased to some extent” but is still noticeable. He also felt that the construction crew may not be using its weekend time effectively, regardless of what Sadik-Khan wrote to Silver.

“I walk around on Saturday or Sunday, and there’s nothing really going on,” said Ost. “They just seem to be slow, when they could be doing more weekend work to quicken the pace of everything.”

L.M.C.C.C. moves offices, rehires environmental engineer   |  The Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center has officially moved to the eighth floor of the Port Authority’s Downtown offices at 115 Broadway.

The move, which occurred late last month, involves the switch of L.M.C.C.C.’s three remaining full-time employees from its original offices at 1 Liberty Plaza, across from the W.T.C.

“I guess you’d say it’s a comfortable space — it takes a little bit of getting used to for me, personally,” said the agency’s external relations director Robin Forst.

Meanwhile, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s executive director Pat Foye announced the search for a new environmental engineer for the L.M.C.C.C. at a recent State Senate appearance. The position was previously held by Thomas Kunkel, who was laid off along with three other full-time employees last spring.

“We’re engaged in that search now, and we will keep you posted on that,” said Foye, adding, “I think that the L.M.C.C.C., over the decade, has provided significant value to the local community, to the Port Authority, to elected officials — and I think it’s positioned to continue doing that.”

Responding to the good news, Squadron said, “While there’s still much to do to mitigate the impact of construction on Lower Manhattan’s residents and businesses, the Port Authority’s decision to rehire an L.M.C.C.C. environmental engineer is a step in the right direction.”