Volume 18 • Issue 49 | April 21 - 27, 2006


Government failure jeopardizes Downtown’s future

In 2002 we published an ominous picture of the Deutsche Bank building on the cover, with what seemed to us like a nightmare caption – that officials were warning the demolition of the building would take two years even if the work could begin right away. In 2006, that nightmare now sounds like a fantasy.

“Shrouded,” “haunting,” “draped coffin” — those are some of the words we and many others have used over the past four and a half years to describe the damaged building across the street from the World Trade Center site. The same words could describe Fiterman Hall, which plagues the north side of the site. These buildings attack the psyches of the hundreds of thousands of people who live or work nearby and we are outraged that the planned demolitions have been delayed again.

Unlike the complicated Larry Silverstein-Port Authority impasse over the W.T.C. office redevelopment, there is widespread agreement as to the overall goal of the demolition projects, but an inability to carry out the plans.

The Environmental Protection Agency has raised safety concerns on both demolitions and regardless of whether or not the E.P.A. is doing good work by protecting us from a health hazard, or is just being obstructionist after taking its share of justified hits from Downtowners for their irresponsible response after 9/11 – either way, the delays represent colossal government failures.

The E.P.A. must err on the side of caution and we are not going to criticize them now for speaking up. If the agency’s red flags are justified, then the governmental failure is with Gov. Pataki, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the State Dormitory Authority and others for not resolving the insurance disputes quicker and not coming up with safe demolition plans sooner.

The discovery of hundreds of human remains in Deutsche in recent weeks raises questions as to why the state and city did not insist on conducting more comprehensive searches of the building at the end of 2001. Family members who never recovered any of their loved ones’ remains have legitimate concerns and are entitled to more assurances that the cleanup of the building will be done sensitively and carefully before the demolition begins.

Demolition of a small building on the site of the Fulton Transit Center under construction also has been delayed after the E.P.A. responded to a local resident who noticed what looked to be unsafe work commencing. This train center is an important piece to insuring Downtown’s economic recovery but a speedy construction schedule can’t be accomplished if it’s done at the expense of safety.

The alphabet-laden group of federal, state and city agencies involved in Lower Manhattan has done too much finger-pointing and not enough coordinating.

In this period of construction Downtowners need reason to stay hopeful and that will only come if we are assured — and we can see — that the work is being done quickly and safely.


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