Volume 19 • Issue 19 | September 22 - 28, 2006

E.P.A.: Shroud will come down!
Agency approves Deutsche demolition

By Ronda Kaysen

The Deutsche Bank building, a 40-story cauldron of toxic debris that has lorded over the World Trade Center site for half a decade, will soon be a thing of the past.

The demolition of the 9/11-damaged tower could begin as early as October, paving the way for the rebuilding of the site. The painstaking floor-by-floor deconstruction of the black-shrouded tower will take about a year, redevelopment officials said. Once the building is gone, work on the new Tower 5 can begin.

“We anticipate early to mid-October when we’ll see deconstruction happen,” Charles Maikish, head of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, which has assumed responsibility for the building, said at a Community Board 1 meeting this week.

The roof passed a final inspection this week and regulators hashed out final demolition details with the command center and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the state-city agency that purchased the building from Deutsche Bank in order to demolish it.

“Everything's okay on our end,” Mary Mears, an Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson, told Downtown Express on Thursday. “Now it's a question of Department of Buildings issuing permits.”

E.P.A. sent a letter to the Buildings Dept. on Thursday telling them they had approved L.M.D.C.'s demolition plan, allowing the corporation to apply for the necessary demolition permits. Mears indicated that the L.M.D.C. might need to work out concerns about the possability of a building collapse during the demolition with the Buildings Dept.

The story of the Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St. has been one of protracted legal disputes, intense oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency and spiraling costs. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a state-city agency created to oversee the rebuilding of the site, bought the building from Deutsche Bank in Aug. 2004, brining an end to years of legal disputes between Deutsche Bank and its insurers.

Since then, L.M.D.C. has focused its efforts on demolishing the building. E.P.A. scrapped its original demolition plan in early 2005, sending the agency back to the drawing board. In early 2006, regulators finally gave L.M.D.C. the green light to begin cleaning the building, which is contaminated with mercury, lead, mold, asbestos and a host of other toxins. The floor-by-floor demolition was supposed to begin in June, but regulators refused to approve plans for the work, citing various concerns.

Now that those issues are resolved, work can begin.

“Great! Great!” said Community Board 1 vice chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes when asked by Downtown Express what she thought about the news. “We can move forward with the redevelopment of the area.”

First, contractors will remove the roof of the building. And then they will set to work on each floor, removing the skin, followed by the floor itself and then the steel beams. As each floor is removed, work will begin on the one below it. While the upper floors are being removed, work crews will continue to clean the lower floors. The top five floors have already been cleaned. Because they contain the building’s mechanicals, it took longer to clean them of hazardous materials and redevelopment officials expect that lower floors will be cleaned much faster. It will take eight to 10 weeks to remove the roof and top five floors.

The remaining floors will take less time to remove. Maikish expects them to come down a floor a week. In total, the building will be reduced to its foundation in less than a year. “It’s critically important for Deutsche Bank to come down now,” he said, so that it does not delay the rebuilding of the Trade Center site.

The site will have an underground parking and ramp system for delivery trucks and tour buses. Under a framework agreement between the Port Authority and W.T.C. developer Larry Silverstein, the Tower 5 site would be controlled by the Port, which is considering building a residential tower there.

Demolition crews will work Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. While the first phase was markedly quiet —aside from the crane and scaffolding rising along the building’s façade, it was often difficult to tell any work was going on at all. The demolition phase will be far louder.

“Crushing concrete is a noisy operation,” said Maikish, an engineer who worked on the construction of the Twin Towers.

“You can’t get away from it.”

Residents and community board members voiced concerns about safety at the site, worrying that demolishing a 40-story tower in a densely populated neighborhood could pose a serious threat. “I’m concerned about structural problems,” said Esther Regelson, who lives four blocks south of Deutsche Bank. “I don’t want to relive what I lived through on 9/11.”

“The building is coming down as it was put up — it’s coming down in pieces,” said Maikish. The possibility of the building pancaking is “remote,” he said.


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