‘Wait ‘til next year’ likely for Fiterman Hall demo

By Ronda Kaysen

Fiterman Hall has stood damaged, contaminated and virtually abandoned since it was badly scathed nearly four years ago during the World Trade Center disaster. Although the money is now in place to take it down, it appears it will stay just where it is until next year.

The Borough of Manhattan Community College, a CUNY school, owns the 15-story structure, a classroom building on the corner of West Broadway and Barclay St. When CUNY secured the entire $185 million needed to dismantle the epistle and rebuild a replacement structure, Governor George Pataki announced in May that work would begin on what he described as an “eye sore” as soon as October. It now seems that it will take much longer than that, CUNY officials say.

CUNY hopes to submit a cleaning and demolition plan to the Environmental Protection Agency in the fall and then await approval from the regulatory agencies and the community sometime after that.

“It’s a work in progress and we have a conceptual idea about our timeframe,” Peter Paden, a lawyer for the university told Downtown Express. “Things evolve. Our aspiration is to have [the cleanup and demolition plan] out at the fall.”

Paden was reluctant to speculate on exactly how long it would take to secure approval from the regulatory agencies. Work on the building cannot begin until the agencies approve a plan.

Although there are two nearby examples of 9/11-contaminated buildings that underwent an E.P.A. review process before they were demolished, it is difficult to gauge how long a review process might actually take.

Nearby 130 Liberty St., a 40-story tower that was also badly contaminated in the disaster, has endured a protracted review process. Nearly year after the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation purchased it with the intention of beginning to demolish it by the end of 2004, it is only now approaching the end of an E.P.A. approval process. However, a much smaller building, the 10-story 4 Albany St., was cleaned and demolished with much less fanfare.

“We’re looking to model this after 4 Albany St.,” said Andrew Bachman, a vice president for Tishman, the construction company handling the demolition, at a recent Community Board 1 meeting. “Hopefully this will go swiftly and smoothly and you won’t even know we’re there.”

The university anticipates it will take six months to clean the building of the asbestos, mercury, dioxin, P.C.B.s and mold that contaminated it when 7 W.T.C. collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. The building, which was in the final stages of a $62 million renovation when the disaster occurred, was only partly occupied at the time of event. Only 35 of its 70 classrooms were furnished and in use at the time. No one has set foot in the brick structure since shortly after the disaster. At this point, the university is relying on information from 2001 to gauge the extent of the contamination. But now, with the financing secured, CUNY expects to assess Fiterman Hall shortly to determine the extent of the contamination and damage.

Once the building is cleaned, a six-month long process, it will most likely take five months to demolish the empty structure and another two years to build a Pei Cobb Freed-designed building in its place.


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