Volume 17, Number 51 | May 13 - 19, 2005

Demolition work begins at 4 Albany St.

By Ronda Kaysen

While much of the World Trade Center redevelopment plans have been bogged down in a bureaucratic quagmire, a small neo-classical office building at 4 Albany St., standing damaged and shrouded behind a black curtain since Sept. 11th, 2001, has been cleaned of contaminants and will soon be reduced to nothing more than a cement foundation.

Workers began demolishing the Deutsche Bank-owned building last Friday and by July the 10-story edifice will be gone. One of the last World Trade Center-damaged structures scheduled for the chopping block, it is the only one privately owned. In December, workers began a painstaking floor-by-floor cleaning process to remove the contaminants – primarily lead and asbestos — that rendered it uninhabitable. With the building now empty and clean, the façade will be peeled into the structure to be demolished floor by floor.

“All of the contaminants have been removed,” Frank Lawatsch, Jr. legal counsel for the bank, told Community Board 1 members and local residents at a recent C.B. 1 public meeting. “All that’s left is brick and mortar.”

The office building’s fate was sealed last November when Deutsche Bank entered into a $30 million sale agreement with developer Joseph Moinian on the condition that the bank would demolish the structure.

A spokesperson for the Moinian Group declined to comment on the developer’s plans for the site.

From 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., five days a week, workers will haul debris from the site. Loading the remnants of the building on Albany St., trucks – two to five a day at the start, and 12 to 14 a day by the middle of June – will loop onto Carlyle St. and onto the West Side Highway.

The demise of 4 Albany St. may be a harbinger of how the other remaining 9/11-damaged structures are dismantled. “What happens at 4 Albany St. is setting the precedent for what happens at 130 Liberty St. and what happens at Fiterman Hall,” said C.B. 1 member Catherine McVay Hughes, referring to two 9/11-damaged structures that are awaiting demolition.

Although 4 Albany St. is not facing the same level of public and government scrutiny as the government-owned contaminated buildings, the Environmental Protection Agency has been closely watching Deutsche Bank’s activities at the site. Future demolitions will most likely take cues from the bank, according to Pat Evangelista, W.T.C. coordinator for the E.P.A. “4 Albany is a good model,” he said.

The E.P.A. is directly overseeing plans for the demolition of 130 Liberty St., a former Deutsche Bank property that was acquired by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a city and state agency, last year. The L.M.D.C. is currently revising a draft of its demolition plan that will include a detailed emergency action plan, which the corporation discussed at the meeting.

Local residents and community board members voiced environmental safety concerns at the meeting, and a general sense of frustration with a process that has occurred with little public input.

“There’s a lot of distrust because the community wasn’t involved at the beginning,” Craig Hall, president of the W.T.C. Residents Coalition, told Deutsche Bank representatives.

Lawatsch insisted that the E.P.A. and C.B. 1 have been kept abreast of the company’s dealings, noting that environmental consultants for the bank deliver reports to the E.P.A. every week. “The last thing the bank wanted to do was expose the community to anything,” said Lawatsch.

There have been two incidents where contamination levels have exceeded safety levels since work began on the 130,000 sq. ft. building. The first exceedence showing lead was caused by work at a nearby Con Edison project and the second, caused by asbestos, was related to work at the site. Neither incident, said Lawatsch, posed a public health threat since the exposure stayed within safe limits. “We set very specific requirements that go well beyond what the law requires,” he said.


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