Volume 20 Issue 2 | May 25 -31, 2007


Deutsche’s oversight needs oversight

The sky is falling after all.

A 15-foot pipe fell off the former Deutsche Bank building last Thursday, crashing into the Ten-Ten firehouse, injuring two of New York’s Bravest across from the World Trade Center site. Luckily no one was seriously hurt and no more firefighters were lost because of 9/11. For years, rebuilding officials have rolled their eyes and privately compared the residents critical of the plans to dismantle the Deutsche Bank to Chicken Little, but residents’ fears are proving to be well-placed.

The price tag to buy the blighted, damaged and contaminated building and take it down in a purportedly safe manner has soared to $247 million. It makes us wonder if anyone has ever done so little with so much. As we report in this issue, the city Dept. of Buildings has issued six violations at the work site in just three months.

Despite claims by the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. to be closely monitoring the project, contractors were somehow able to violate a stop work order in March. We can only hope the latest stop work order is followed this time because the lives of the residents, firefighters and other workers near the building are at stake. Residents have reported debris apparently from Deutsche on their terraces and roofs.

We do not know if Bovis Lend Lease, John Galt Corporation and the other contractors have been cutting corners, but they have a strong incentive to do so because they will lose $29 million if they can’t take the building down by January. In addition, state and city officials are understandably embarrassed at the length of time it has taken to remove this blight on the neighborhood

Avi Schick, L.M.D.C. chairperson and president of the Empire State Development Corp., has promised an investigation and closer oversight. Both are needed, but they are not enough. An independent inspector general, perhaps from a federal agency, must be brought in to monitor the safety of the project.

The book on libraries

Andrew Carnegie’s incredible donation over a century ago built the Chatham Square Library in Chinatown and many others across the city and the nation. Back then, neighborhoods like Soho, Tribeca and Battery Park City hadn’t been created, so Lower Manhattan didn’t get any other of these precious jewels. Since then it’s been harder to get libraries built.

The New Amsterdam came to the Tribeca-City Hall area in 1989 and on Monday Soho got its first branch. Each came because of the determined efforts by residents and politicians like former City Councilmember Kathryn Freed. A similar fight has been underway for years in Battery Park City and we hope this year’s city budget will include the money to allow the library to be built and open next year.
Skeptics may say brick and mortar locations with hard copies of hard-covered text are pre-21st century relics, but libraries continue to adapt with technology. They open up worlds for children learning to read and adults in search of information. Soho became a better place to live this week and we hope to say the same about Battery Park City next year.

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