Volume 18 • Issue 29 | December 2 - 8, 2005

L.M.D.C. funds emergency team for Deutsche building

By Ronda Kaysen

The Community Emergency Response Team in Battery Park City is being expanded to cover the neighborhood near 130 Liberty St., an office tower that was contaminated and damaged in the World Trade Center disaster and is now being demolished.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which owns and is dismantling the former Deutsche Bank building, enlisted the CERT team as part of an effort to put community concerns about emergency response plans to rest. The corporation gave the team nearly $48,000 that will be disseminated through the city’s Office of Emergency Management to train an additional 50 members, purchase more equipment and supplies and educate the community.

“Safety has been the L.M.D.C.’s number one priority,” Stefan Pryor, president of the L.M.D.C., said in a statement. “We are pleased to fund an expansion of this CERT, which will provide additional safety measures and training, and provide increased information about safety and emergency procedures to the community.”

Residents and environmentalists have criticized the corporation for lacking a clear emergency response plan in the event of an emergency as the 40-story tower is dismantled floor-by-floor. Two weeks ago, shards of glass fell from a window, landing first on a sidewalk shed and then onto Greenwich St. below, which was open to pedestrians and traffic. It was the second incident of its kind in the past 15 months. No one was injured either time.

“We’re worried about the possibility of everything and anything. It is so unpredictable,” Pat Moore, a resident of 125 Cedar St., which is across the street from 130 Liberty St., told Downtown Express after the recent glass incident. “A floor collapsing, a wall falling out, scaffolding falling, the crane falling, a gas mane exploding.”

City officials hope expanding the CERT team might ease some of the worries, said Jarrod Bernstein, a spokesperson for O.E.M., which works extensively with the city’s 22 teams to help them get resources and provide training. “We’ve seen citywide that when people are empowered to be prepared for all types of emergencies, fear generally goes down,” he said.

The B.P.C. CERT team, the largest in the state, currently has 182 members, including four doctors, five registered nurses, retired police officers and retired firefighters. It was the first team in the United States to travel to New Orleans to help in the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.

The team will begin outreach and training new members after the holidays, according to Sidney Baumgarten, the team chief. It intends to contact every resident in the affected area and work with the L.M.D.C. on its emergency action plan. Baumgarten, once deputy mayor to Abraham Beame, now runs an emergency preparedness company.

“CERT teams are community based, they’re people that are known to the community, they’re identifiable,” he said. “The people in Battery Park City know who we are, and what we do.”

The CERT team is not intended to replace professional emergency response teams, says Bernstein of O.E.M.

Some residents wonder if money would be better spent on professional responders instead of volunteer groups. “Empowering the community sounds nice on paper,” said Andy Jurinko, a 125 Cedar St. resident and Moore’s husband. “I don’t want somebody down the street telling me what to do in an emergency. Everybody wants to walk around the neighborhood wearing a hat and talking through a bullhorn.”

For residents who have been campaigning the L.M.D.C. to finalize a community response plan, this latest move is a step in the right direction. said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of the C.B. 1 W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee. She still hopes to see the corporation address similar concerns at nearby Fiterman Hall, another 9/11 contaminated building facing demolition. “We definitely need clarification,” she said.


Ronda@DowntownExpress.com


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