New fire safety violations at Deutsche

By Josh Rogers

Officials may hope to resume demolishing the Deutsche Bank building soon, but the project’s fire and safety problems continue.

In October — two months after the Aug. 18 blaze killed two firefighters at the damaged building — the city Dept. of Buildings issued three violations — one for allowing combustible debris to accumulate on the sixth floor (Oct. 4), one for leaving debris too close to the edge of the building (Oct. 5), and one for doing after hours work without a permit (Oct. 13).

“One would think they’d be careful — they’re under investigation, two people have died, the community is up in arms,” Pat Moore said of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and other agencies overseeing the building across the street from her home.

She is a member of Community Board 1 and attended an Oct. 12 meeting of the 130 Liberty St. Advisory Committee, yet she had not heard about the violations until she was contacted by Downtown Express.

“Why would we have a meeting on the 12th and not hear about the violations,” she asked. The meeting was run by the L.M.D.C., the building’s owner.

Kimberly Flynn of 9/11 Environmental Action said a fellow activist emailed her the information about the violations but she also got no official word, despite attending the Oct. 12 meeting.

“These are violations in October, at which point we would have thought the L.M.D.C. had the situation firmly in hand,” she said. “The nature of the violations is particularly troubling….”

“It’s looking like same-old, same-old. At the community meetings [right after the fire] people asked over and over, ‘what’s going to be different to prevent injuries, accidents and fires?’”

Officials with the development corporation, a state-city authority under the control of the governor, did not comment for this article.

Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of C.B. 1’s World Trade Center Committee, said L.M.D.C. officials did say Oct. 12 that they were reducing the “fire load” in the building, but they did not connect the change to the recent violations.

The violations have been rectified, according to the Buildings Dept. Web site.

Avi Schick, the L.M.D.C.’s chairperson, said a few weeks ago that the work resealing the building to prevent possible toxic chemicals from escaping was proceeding well and he hoped the cleanup and demolition would begin soon.

Councilmember Alan Gerson said two weeks ago that the L.M.D.C. promised to testify before his Council committee before demolition work resumed. Gerson postponed the hearing then, and he has not yet rescheduled, an indication that the demolition date may have been pushed back.

Fifteen of the building’s 41 stories were taken apart before the fire.

The corporation has not yet picked a subcontractor to replace John Galt Corp., which was cited for numerous safety violations before the fire. Last year, Board 1 warned the L.M.D.C. not to hire the firm, citing Galt’s lack of experience and alleged ties to organized crime.

The L.M.D.C.’s silence about the fire and safety violations is the latest in a list of community complaints about the project.

This year after each major incident, officials made assurances that the project would proceed safely, but they were not specific about what the mistakes were and what they learned. A large pipe fell off the building and crashed through the nextdoor firehouse in May, injuring two firefighters slightly. The fire killed Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia Aug. 18, and then five days later, a 300-pound forklift fell off the building, crashed through a shed, and injured two other firefighters seriously.

The night before that last incident, the L.M.D.C. sent out a community advisory saying that Bovis Lend Lease would be working on the site, ostensibly to make it safer before demolition work resumed, but the LM.D.C. did not disclose that John Galt would be there as well.

One of Galt’s workers was blamed for losing control of the forklift and Aug. 23 turned out to be its last day on the site.

Julie Menin, CB. 1’s chairperson and a member of the L.M.D.C.’s board of directors, said residents must be told immediately when problems are discovered at Deutsche. “We shouldn’t be put in a position,” she said, “where we have to be ferreting out information about what’s happening at the site.”