Downtown Digest, Week of July 25, 2012

Four workers fired from W.T.C. site for drinking during lunch
Four steamfitters working on the World Trade Center site were fired on Wed., July 18 after undercover detectives from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey caught them drinking on their lunch break, according to a source close to the situation.

All of the workers were union members assigned to 3 W.T.C., and were found by the Port Authority detectives in a bar near the W.T.C. site, where they were all having “more than one” alcoholic drink, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous due to professional concerns.

“We appreciate the prompt response [of the firings] from the Port Authority, and especially the Inspector General and his investigators,” said Bud Perrone, a spokesperson for W.T.C. developer Silverstein Properties. “There is no place at the World Trade Center for risky or irresponsible behavior of any kind.”

The anonymous source also stated that Port Authority detectives have conducted frequent undercover investigations into drinking and other worksite safety issues over the past several years, and that undercover operations are still ongoing.

“Obviously, it’s my own fault; I should have known better,” said one of the fired workers, 48-year-old Long Islander Michael Galvani, to the New York Post. “I had two beers with my burger. I think there’s a lot worse going on on that job, but I’m going to pay for it.”

G.S.A. signs lease for six floors at 1 W.T.C.
The U.S. General Services Administration (G.S.A.) announced on Wed., July 18 that it signed a lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Durst Organization to occupy six floors at 1 World Trade Center.

The lease, which gives the G.S.A. approximately 270,000 square feet of space on floors 50 to 55 of the tower, will start in 2015 and carries an initial term length of 20 years, according to a G.S.A. release. It also marks the fact that 55 percent of the tenant space at 1 W.T.C. has now been leased, according to a Port Authority spokesperson.

“This lease brings 1 World Trade Center one step closer to being one of the most successful commercial developments in the world, and is a significant generator of jobs and economic activity,” said Port Authority Vice Chairman Scott Rechler.

Durst and the Port Authority are co-owners of the flagship tower, which is scheduled to be opened by the start of 2014. The G.S.A. is the third tenant of 1 W.T.C., alongside publishing giant Condé Nast, which has leased nearly 1.2 million square feet, and Beijing Vantone Real Estate Co., which will fill 190,000 square feet.

“This reaffirms the federal government’s commitment to the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site and to this project that demonstrates the undaunted resilience of the American people,” said Dan Tangherlini, G.S.A.’s acting administrator, in a statement released the day of the announcement. “There will once again be a federal presence in the World Trade Center, as there was from its beginning.”

Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, several government agencies were housed at 6 W.T.C., including the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Agriculture, Commerce and Labor Departments. One W.T.C. is being built on the site of the former 6 W.T.C., which was demolished after the attacks.

Politicians barred from next 9/11 anniversary ceremony
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that politicians will be excluded from the next 9/11 commemoration.

Joe Daniels, the president of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum — where the annual ceremony is held — wrote in a July 11 letter to 9/11 victims’ families, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, that “the reading of the names by family members will be the exclusive focus of the program.”

Bloomberg made the final call to exclude all politicians after discussing the issue with the board of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation, which he chairs. In previous years, current and former elected officials recited historical readings or poems as part of the event. Over the past few months, it came to light that personal feuds may have been brewing between the mayor and both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at last year’s 10th anniversary observance.

Cuomo complained that his father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, was being hassled by security, while Christie complained about former New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco not being invited, according to the New York Post.

More recently, Bloomberg rejected a proposal by the Port Authority of New York and New York Jersey — which is headed by Cuomo and Christie — to gain greater oversight of the 9/11 Memorial, saying that he wanted to keep the memorial out of the “political process.”

Cuomo’s office did not return requests for comment.

Another worker injury at W.T.C.
An ironworker was injured at 3 World Trade Center on Fri., July 13, according to officials. The man, who is employed by the Falcon Steel Company, was helping prepare a load of steel to be lifted from ground level when one of the beams rolled over him, according to John Gallagher, a spokesperson for Tishman Construction, the construction manager for Towers 1, 3 and 4.

An ambulance arrived about 20 minutes later, and the worker, whose name wasn’t released, was transported to Bellevue Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to a city Fire Department spokesperson.

“We take the safety of the job site extremely seriously and treat it as a continuous process that involves all key stakeholders,” said Dara McQuillan, a senior vice president of W.T.C. developer Silverstein Properties. “Whenever there is an accident, it is important to determine what went wrong, so we have set in motion an investigation of Friday’s accident in partnership with all the stakeholders at the World Trade Center.”

Gallagher said that Tishman is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation of the incident.”

This comes on the heels of two recent accidents. On June 26, a worker was injured after falling on a metal rebar, and a day later, a load of steel being lifted by a crane crashed through windows on the 46th floor of 4 W.T.C.

Petition for monument to honor those killed by Ground Zero toxins
A Downtown resident has started an online petition urging authorities to build a free-standing monument on the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Plaza to honor first responders and cleanup workers who have died from inhaling toxins at Ground Zero.

Allan Tannenbaum, 67, a Community Board 1 member and photojournalist from Tribeca, created the petition in late May after years of advocacy for those affected by 9/11-related toxins. His photo story “Still Killing,” published in TIME Magazine in 2006, documented cases of emergency and clean-up workers who were suffering from cancers and other incurable diseases years after the terrorist attacks, and who Tannenbaum said are often overshadowed by those who died on 9/11.

The 9/11 Memorial has plans to include an exhibit on those who’ve died from toxins once it opens to the public.

Tannenbaum — who was a member of C.B. 1’s now-defunct World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee — said that when, during a committee meeting, he once asked 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels why the exhibit couldn’t be turned into its own monument on the Plaza, Daniels told him that it was because some Ground Zero workers have died from causes unrelated to toxins.

“But an exhibit just isn’t enough because of the awful illnesses and deaths that these people and their families have gone through,” said Tannenbaum. “I don’t think that we should kill the whole idea just because there might be a handful of names on that wall who didn’t die from 9/11 toxins.”

The petition, which had gained more than 230 online signatures by press time, can found at www.change.org.

A.A.F.E. to boycott Chinatown hotel in support of Hester Street tenants
Chinatown residents and community leaders gathered on Fri., July 13, to support Asian Americans for Equality (A.A.F.E.) as it launched an official protest of the Chinatown Wyndham Garden Hotel and landlord William Su’s treatment of the former tenants of 128 Hester St.

Standing outside the new 18-story hotel at 91-93 Bowery, protesters once again called on Su to provide compensation to the eight families — 29 people — who lost their homes in August 2009 when the building was evacuated by the city Department of Buildings (D.O.B.) because of dangerous structural flaws. Before it was demolished, the D.O.B. had noted that the deterioration was due in part to the hotel’s construction on the lot adjacent to 128 Hester St.

Su has also repeatedly failed to comply with a 2010 order from the N.Y.S. Division of Housing and Community Renewal to pay relocation fees to his former tenants.

“He has been treating the tenants in a way that nobody in our community should ever be treated,” said Peter Gee, A.A.F.E’s director of housing and community services.

In addition to asking residents and organizations to sign a petition urging Su to compensate the displaced tenants, A.A.F.E. is now calling for a boycott of the Wyndham, which will open later this year.

“When Wyndham and William Su have the ceremony to open up this hotel, respect the tenants of 128 Hester Street,” said Gee. “Do not go to the ceremony. Do not use the Chinatown Wyndham Hotel. Do not support William Su. He has screwed over the tenants, and we are here today to tell him that we demand justice.” Su’s lawyer, Stuart Klein, fired back in an interview several days after the press conference, telling the Downtown Express that he believes the boycott is “completely groundless.”

“Su spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on repairs to 128 Hester, and also reconfigured the superstructure of the hotel in 2009 to prevent it from impacting 128 Hester,” Klein asserted. “Why would he take the time and money to do that if the intent was to neglect it?”

Menin maxes out fundraising for borough prez primary
Former Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin is off to a strong start in her campaign to be Manhattan’s next borough president, having already raised all of the funds she can legally spend before the Democratic primary in September 2013.

In a six-month fundraising period that ended on July 11, Menin told the Downtown Express she had raised more than $476,000. Along with funds accumulated during the two-month filing period between January and November, Menin has now raised over $950,000 in approximately eight months.

With matching funds from the city Campaign Finance Board, that total pushes her to $1.45 million — the limit that can be spent on the upcoming primary — giving her an early edge over her opponents.

“That fact that we’ve maxed out in fundraising 14 months ahead of the primary date means that we can already move on to stage two of the campaign,” said Menin. “That will involve continuing to go into every neighborhood in Manhattan, to talk with voters and community groups.”

She added that her campaign has received over 1,750 individual donations, with the majority of donors contributing $250 or less.

Menin served as the chair of C.B. 1 for seven years before stepping down last month. Her three rivals in the Democratic primary — Jessica Lappin, Gale Brewer and Robert Jackson — are all behind her in fundraising, although Lappin is closing the gap, having raised about $740,000 so far, according to the Wall Street Journal.

New center will bring world-class medical research to Downtown
Within a year from now, Downtown will be home to a new, cutting-edge medical research facility.

The New York Genome Center (N.Y.G.C.) announced on Tues., July 24 that it had signed a lease on seven floors at 101 Sixth Avenue, where it will establish its first headquarters. Construction on the interior of the building, which will begin within weeks, should be completed by mid-2013.

The deal, which carries a price tag of $47 million, has an initial term of 20 years and will provide the organization with approximately 170,000 square feet of space, according to the N.Y.G.C.

The center’s headquarters is expected to become one of the largest human genome research facilities in North America within five years, and will create at least 500 new jobs for scientific, academic and medical professionals in that span of time, said Nancy J. Kelly, N.Y.G.C.’s founding executive director.

The facility will also serve to attract new medical technology to New York City, with a primary goal of finding new ways to diagnose, treat or cure genetic diseases such as various forms of cancer, according to the release.

N.Y.G.C. was founded in August 2010 as an independent non-profit organization, through partnerships with 11 major institutions that include Columbia University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the New York University School of Medicine.

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