Volume 18 • Issue 5 | JUNE 24- 2, 20

Editorial

Tribeca is still waiting for safety from stored diesel fuel

Feeling confident after a few years of secret meetings, the city’s Buildings Dept. is about to release its plan to legalize the illegal amounts of diesel stored at 60 Hudson St. There is about twice as much fuel stored in the building as was stored in 7 World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 when a diesel-fueled fire led to the building’s collapse that afternoon.

The plan is expected to be released within the next few days and we’re told it will include new fire safety precautions to ensure the safety of the workers in the building and the Tribeca residents who live across the street. Anything less would be criminal – just like the criminal fire safety violations the owners of 60 Hudson St., GVA Williams, have ignored for the last three years. The firm is due in court in July, and if they do actually appear, a building manager told us the strategy will be to smile at the judge and say in effect, “hey, the city’s playing ball with us so sit back and enjoy the game.” The city is playing ball, but this is no game. This is a potentially dangerous situation that the city has allowed to continue unchanged for years.

And there is little reason to put faith in the Buildings Dept. – notoriously one of the city’s most disorganized agencies. Last month, Buildings issued demolition permits for two sites near the World Trade Center site that had not yet been cleaned of toxic chemicals. Thankfully, the permits were revoked in the nick of time after U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler intervened.

Buildings plans to release a document that details the steps GVA Williams must take to improve the safety of the telecom building at 60 Hudson. The agency plans to issue a variance allowing the illegal amounts of fuel as soon as GVA meets the new requirements. Before that happens, the agency must give groups like Neighbors Against NOISE, formed to combat the building’s problems, and the rest of the public enough time to review the plan and perhaps hire independent expert to assess the city’s safety assertions.

Any plan legalizing illegal diesel storage must also have teeth. Buildings must make it clear how it will monitor GVA’s compliance, how often it will make checks, how the public will be able to check the checkers, what will happen if GVA commits future violations, and under what circumstances would the agency revoke the permit to store illegal amounts of fuel.

The safety of the people who live and work in Tribeca is certainly more than enough reason to make sure 60 Hudson St. is safe, but the stakes go even beyond that. The disclosure that 60 Hudson has dangerous amounts of diesel came because of a series of events that cannot be undone. There are likely other buildings Downtown and around the city that have excessive amounts of diesel. It probably is better that those other addresses remain undisclosed. But Buildings Dept. officials have to show they know how to ensure safety at 60 Hudson where we know there’s too much diesel. Otherwise there’s no reason to believe they will do anything to protect us when there are dangers that aren’t public.

We can’t open a new Buildings Dept. tomorrow. The old one will have to start earning the public’s trust next week when it finally releases its plan to begin to protect Tribeca from this dangerous, irresponsible, and illegal situation in our midst.

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