Demo Plan Ready To Finally Take Down Deutsche

Downtown Express - October 09, 2009

by Josh Rogers

Even shrouds have expiration dates.

The black netting draped over the 9/11-damaged former Deutsche Bank building was recently replaced with blue, fireproof netting and demolition of the plagued project is expected to resume this month. Steven Sommer, senior vice president of Bovis Lend Lease, said the netting was removed because the black mesh - often called a "shroud" by Downtowners frustrated with the stalled effort to bring the building down - had expired.

Demolition on the building at 130 Liberty St. ceased Aug. 18, 2007, the day two firefighters were killed battling a fire in the building. A Bovis supervisor and two supervisors with a Bovis subcontractor were indicted for manslaughter in the case, accused of being responsible for the building's broken standpipe which doomed the firefighters. The subcontractor, John Galt Corp., was also indicted, but Bovis and the City of New York's government avoided criminal charges after they admitted wrongdoing and pledged to implement better safety procedures.

The city Dept. of Buildings is ready to approve a new demolition plan with more safety features, and officials are confident physical demolition will begin within a week or so after the permit is issued.

On the pending permit, David Emil, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the building's owner, told Downtown Express Tuesday: "We were told yesterday it will be at the end of the week which I take to mean it will be sometime next week."

That evening it seemed even more certain as Buildings officials joined Emil, Bovis executives, F.D.N.Y., subcontractors and engineers to present the demo plan at a community meeting.

Sommer's methodical, detailed presentation - he left little to assumption, even letting attendees know that the boxes storing building debris are called containers - was well received by concerned community members, many of whom raised safety red flags at countless meetings before and after the deadly blaze.

Fatma Amer, deputy commissioner of Buildings, said she would visit the building every week, and inspectors assigned to the building have much more safety training than they did before the fire. "Two inspectors from our best squad, our best team" will be there every day, Amer added, although she may have merely meant that they are graduates of the agency's Building Enforcement Safety Team program.

District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's criminal investigation revealed that the Buildings inspectors assigned to Deutsche were inexperienced and never examined the area where the standpipe was broken.

There have been many safety improvements to the new demo plan including:

  • The standpipe now has an alarm that will prompt an immediate evacuation of the building if it stops working.
  • At least one stairway will remain open at all times during the demolition.
  • Plywood in the building has been treated with anti-flammable materials.
  • A fire access road to the building will remain open. (The building is also next door to the 10/10 firehouse.
  • There will be a site safety inspector in the building at all times.
  • The demolition has been separated from the environmental cleanup, which has been completed, so the flammable materials and negative air pressure are no longer needed or present in the building.

Pat Moore, a Community Board 1 member who lives next to the building, said the presentation was "a lot better than they used to be... I felt they weren't pulling any punches. They were straightforward."

Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of C.B. 1's World Trade Center Redvelopment Committee, said she would have liked to have had more notice about the meeting, but she was pleased with the plan.

"It's a big improvement," she said. "I wish we were here two years ago."

The work taking down the remaining 26 stories of the 41-story building will be done Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays will be reserved for "jumping down" the tower crane, which can't be lowered while workers are in the building.

The L.M.D.C.'s Emil said he did not want to predict when in 2010 the building will come down until the next few floors are removed, and they see how long it takes. Pre-fire, contractors were able to remove a floor every five days. The work could presumably go faster now that workers no longer have to clean for toxins as they go, but Avi Schick, the development corporation's chairperson, said that the new plan is also "more conservative" than the original. Emil said the work could also take longer as the building gets lower because the columns get thicker.

The workers will break and crush the concrete, and wet it down before sending it down to basement in containers. As structural components are removed, the basement concrete will be needed to help stabilize the building.

James Feuerborn Jr., an engineer and principal of Thornton Tomasetti, said the future load capacities of the building floors have been calculated throughout the demolition plan and workers will know precisely which areas can support heavy equipment and which cannot.

Bovis's Sommer said they will try to limit the noise as much as possible, and Moore asked him to make sure truck drivers and other workers are conscious of residents, particularly early in the morning before the work begins.

The bank site will be part of the new W.T.C. and the delays taking the building down have affected construction there too.

Quentin Brathwaite, head of the Port Authoritys Office of Program Logistics, said at a community board meeting Monday night that the delays necessitated adjustments to the Vehicle Security Center, which will be needed in the future to allow construction trucks access to the office towers being built and will someday be the entry point for delivery trucks.

"As the Deutsche Bank falls further and further behind," he said, "we had to revise our construction sequencing….Because we cannot access the site on the Deutsche Bank side...we had to reconfigure our access plans."

The project's costs continue to rise. The cleanup, demolition costs are now inching close to $200 million. This week the L.M.D.C. board authorized an additional $2 million because the scaffolding remained up longer than expected. Officials promised there'd be less scaffolding by the next board meeting in November.

With reporting by Julie Shapiro