Volume 19 Issue 45 | March 23 - 29, 2007

At last! Deutsche takes a little off the top

By Skye H. McFarlane

It’s official. The former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St. is finally coming down.

After years of delays and spiraling deconstruction costs, the shrouded 41-story tower is beginning to shrink. Contaminated and irreparably damaged by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, the Deutsche Bank building has long been an eyesore to Downtown residents. To some, it has become a visual symbol of the fraught and delay-ridden rebuilding process at the World Trade Center site.

The process of taking down the 130 Liberty St. building has been held up by a laundry list of problems: weather, insurance wrangling, ownership changes, two worker accidents, environmental concerns, a labor dispute and the discovery of human remains from the Twin Towers on the building’s roof.

Since Dec. 8, 2006, crews from Bovis Lend Lease and John Galt Corp. have been removing the façade of the building, leaving the upper stories bare of both shroud and windows. Structural deconstruction — the removal of the building itself — was set to commence on March 15, but mother nature threw one last monkey wrench into the process, dumping wind, snow and ice onto the city over the weekend.

On Monday morning, however, crews were able to start using the giant crane that has stood silently next to the building for months. According to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, the crane was first used to bring deconstruction equipment up to the roof. Workers used that equipment to begin dismantling the heavy machinery at the top of the building as soon as it got up there: Monday, March 19, 2007 — 2,015 days after the building was damaged. After the machinery is gone, crews will take apart the building’s steel and concrete floor by floor.

“It’s not a quiet process,” said Bob Harvey of the Command Center, speaking to Community Board 1 members about the concrete deconstruction process during a Feb. 12 meeting. “The good news is, it’ll feel so good when it’s done.”

Harvey coordinates the 130 Liberty St. project for the L.M.C.C.C., which took over day-to-day operations at the building in 2006 from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The development corporation still owns the building, which it purchased from Deutsche Bank in 2004 for $90 million.

Downtown residents met the news of the building’s demise with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

“It’s great for the community for the building to come down,” said C.B. 1 vice chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes. “But we want to make sure that the process is safe, both for the residents in the neighborhood and for the workers in the building.”

In addition to its unattractive appearance and the painful 9/11 memories it evokes, the building is also an impediment to the reconstruction process. The building must come down before the Port Authority can begin to construct its underground tour bus parking facility, Liberty Park and Tower 5 of the new World Trade Center. The Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed on 9/11 will also be rebuilt on the block after the Deutsche Bank tower is out of the way.

However, the desire to rebuild is tempered for many residents by lingering fears about worker and resident safety. The building was contaminated on 9/11 by large amounts of toxic dust from the trade center collapse. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local environmental advocates have questioned the adequacy and openness of the Deutsche Bank’s decontamination and deconstruction plans.

Though most of the building has been cleared of toxins, some residents still fear that asbestos, pulverized concrete or other dangerous substances could be released into the air during the deconstruction. Some residents also fear that the new Dec. 31, 2007 deadline for completing the deconstruction — established during the resolution to a labor dispute with John Galt Corp. — will encourage workers to rush the job, endangering themselves and the people who live in the neighborhood.

The head of the command center, Charles Maikish, has stated repeatedly that no corners will be cut to meet the deadline. However, several residents still say that they will not feel completely at ease until the building is gone for good.

“It’s been five years. Why do they suddenly need to rush to meet a deadline?” said 125 Cedar St. resident Pat Moore, who stressed that she was speaking as a concerned local resident and not in her capacity as a member of C.B. 1. “All the assurances in the world aren’t going to do it for us.”

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