Iron rod falls 13 floors from Tower 4 to street

Just hours before Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s afternoon press conference at 4 World Trade Center on Mon., May 2, a piece of rebar fell from the 13th floor of the tower and struck the hand of a 14-year-old boy.

The teen suffered a bruise on his palm and was treated at the Engine 10 Firehouse, located across the street from the site. Neither the youth nor his parents could be reached for comment.

The four-foot iron rod fell through a one-to-two inch gap in a platform used to suspend construction staff in the air while they work on the building’s exterior.

Jay Badame, president and chief operating officer of Tishman Construction, the management firm overseeing the construction of the future 72-story skyscraper, appeared before Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee to describe the incident and answer questions. Tishman, Badame said, is committed to optimal safety practices.

“We deeply regret the incident that occurred last week,” Tishman said. “Our teams have identified the problems, and we have taken all steps to make sure they don’t happen again.”

The small openings in the platforms are now covered up by plywood, said Dwayne Carter, vice president of corporate safety at Tishman. The company has also tightened its safety measures at the site by instructing personnel to circle the building in search of potential dangers, conduct additional job hazard analyses and retrain its workers in safety procedures.

The accident alarmed some nearby residents, such as Laura Fernandez, who lives on the other side of Liberty St. from Tower 4 and was walking in the area with her four-year-old son that morning. She suggested that there be additional pedestrian safety officers monitoring the street and the nearby PATH station, both heavily populated by pedestrians. The Tribute W.T.C. Visitors Center, in particular, draws hoards of tourists that form lines along Liberty St.

“I think there’s not enough space between my building, the businesses and the site, in general. People could be trampled on coming off the PATH, nevermind what’s falling off buildings,” said Fernandez.

The committee, generally appreciative of Tishman’s efforts to prevent future accidents from occurring, asked that Tishman erect additional scaffolding to protect passers-by.

“I think it’s important for the community to know that, no matter how many controls are in place, an accident can happen,” said committee member Tom Goodkind.

This isn’t Tishman’s first safety lapse, however; Committee Chair Catherine McVay Hughes cited a previous incident involving the landing of a metal fragment from the Goldman Sachs Tower onto the Battery Park City ball fields.

“Luckily this time, everybody got off easy, but we might not get off easy next time,” said McVay Hughes. “We just need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

The committee voted unanimously on a resolution calling for the establishment of a metered bus parking pilot program to control on-street parking once the National 9/11 Memorial opens in September.

The NYC Department of Transportation, which anticipates a need for up to 10 additional bus parking spaces near the W.T.C., is proposing to install commercial parking muni-meters that are automatically programmed with graduated rate schedules so that the fees increase over time.

“Rate schedules could be designed to discourage extended [bus] layovers [and idling], but not be so expensive as to encourage avoidance, which could move buses into unauthorized [parking] locations in residential neighborhoods,” according to the resolution.

Metered bus parking is an integral part of managing the flow of tour buses in Lower Manhattan, according to State Senator Daniel Squadron, who applauded the board’s resolution.

“A comprehensive approach will include incentives for buses to park in New Jersey, disincentives to enter Lower Manhattan, a detailed plan to manage buses on the street and dedicated enforcement,” said Squadron. “I look forward to continuing to work with the community board and my colleagues in government to guarantee that a plan is in place before the opening of the memorial.”

The committee also voted in favor of a resolution opposing obstacles to the administering of health care to 9/11 victims.

Individuals on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s terrorist watch list are prohibited from publicly financed health screenings, according to the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The committee, however, said the rule could prevent some innocent civilians from receiving care.

“There are known instances of misidentification, yet there is no mechanism for people to find out if they are on the terrorist watch list, or to get themselves removed if they are wrongfully placed on the list,” stated the resolution. “[C.B. 1] is concerned that a strict interpretation of the law would create a barrier to obtaining health care at the W.T.C. Environmental Health Center, especially for children, and require precious limited health care resources to execute.”

W.T.C. Health Registry Survey
This month, the NYC Department of Health’s W.T.C. Health Registry is beginning its third survey of participants to find out more about their exposures to airborne toxins following 9/11.

Sixty-eight thousand adults and 1,400 children, including Downtown residents and workers, will be questioned about their health status 10 years after the attacks. The adult survey will be disseminated by web, mail and telephone between now and August. The child survey, still in development, will be distributed in the fall.

Previous surveys revealed a high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and respiratory illnesses among all exposed groups, prompting the Registry to make approximately 400 referrals at the W.T.C. Environmental Health Center. The findings will strengthen the fight to extend the Zadroga Act beyond its current sunset date of 2015, according to the D.O.H.

To the disappointment of the D.O.H., neighborhood residents had the lowest response rate to the 2006-7 survey, noted W.T.C. Health Coordinator Jeffrey Hon. “Some people don’t want to make the connection, or feel guilty about making the connection,” he said.

Article BY Aline Reynolds