See our sponsor's ad: The Ear Inn
Mum’s the word as Deutsche firm is selected
By Josh Rogers
The four-month search to find a new subcontractor to clean and dismantle the former Deutsche Bank building after the fatal fire has ended with a press release and silence from the L.M.D.C., the building’s owner.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a federally-funded public authority under the control of the governor, announced Jan. 8 that it had hired LVI Environmental Services, Inc. to rid the 130 Liberty St. building of toxic chemicals and resume the demolition of the building, which has been reduced from 41 to 26 stories xxx.
Pat Moore, whose Cedar St. building had been hit with Deutsche debris in the months preceding the fire, said even though she is on the 130 Liberty Advisory Council she did not learn of the new subcontractor until she turned on the radio the next day.
“We don’t get the information unless we hear it on the news,” she said.
Rob Spencer, a spokesperson for the Organization of Staff Analysts, said “Once again the nominal outreach to the community is nominal. They are not doing what they said they would.”
Spencer, who keeps close watch of the project, uncovered a long list of Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations LVI Services and its subsidiaries were cited for in projects all over the country. Nevertheless, he said the L.M.D.C. and Bovis Lend Lease, which has the master contract, did pick the safest of the three firms that were reportedly under consideration.
“The other two seemed far worse,” said Spencer. “They had deaths.”
Indeed, almost all of LVI’s violations were not classified as serious on the OSHA Web site, which does not give violation specifics. Of the two that were classified as serious, one in Atlanta was deleted because it was an error, said Dan Fuqua, a spokesperson in OSHA’s Atlanta office.
Amy McGahan, an LVI spokesperson, said the serious violation in Las Vegas last February was an “isolated case” of a worker moving an excavator without fastening his seat belt and was downgraded from serious to “other” by OSHA. An OSHA spokesperson in Nevada said Wednesday that it would take weeks to release the information about the violation.
McGahan said “safety and regulatory compliance are of paramount importance to LVI Services,” and the firm has experience imploding old casinos in Vegas as well as doing more methodical demolitions like what will be required at Deutsche.
She said immediately after 9/11, the firm did cleanup work at a large communication building near the World Trade Center, which she declined to name.
Robert McNamara, president and C.E.O. of LVI Services, said in the L.M.D.C.’s press release that the firm was also called in to clean up the Pentagon after the 9/11 attack.
“We continue to perform abatement and demolition work at the Pentagon, and we are protecting the safety of our employees and the thousands who work in and visit the site daily,” McNamara said in a statement. “It is our pledge to perform the job at 130 Liberty St. in the same safe manner for the protection of our employees and the community.”
LVI, which is based in Lower Manhattan, has done over 15,000 environmental abatement projects since 2000 and was ranked as the top asbestos abatement contractor in the country by Engineering News-Record, according to the press release.
After the Aug. 18 fire killed two firefighters, the L.M.D.C. gave assurances that the project would proceed safely assurances that were followed by a serious injury to another firefighter when a heavy piece of equipment fell off the building. There were also five building safety violations in October and December.
There were two violations on Jan. 4 and two more on Jan. 9, the most serious for padlocking an emergency exit.
L.M.D.C. leaders and their spokespersons declined to answers questions Wednesday including why the public should have confidence in the project’s safety now, or even when the environmental abatement work would resume.
L.M.D.C. officials did not even provide any direct comments on their own press release issued Tuesday.
Julie Menin, Community Board 1’s chairperson and an L.M.D.C. board member, said Avi Schick, the development corporation’s chairperson, briefed her on the LVI contract Tuesday.
She said unlike the old subcontractor, John Galt Corp., which had little experience and alleged mob ties, LVI has a good record.
“This is really, really good news,” she said. “John Galt was a shell company with no track record and LVI, I understand, is the leading environmental abatement company in the country.”
Schick told her the abatement work will begin “very soon” without giving a specific date. She said the L.M.D.C. will send a representative to C.B. 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee meeting Monday and Schick has agreed to conduct a public hearing to discuss the project soon.
“He said he wants to have this hearing right away,” she said.
Officials and neighbors who have followed the project are planning to hold a private meeting Friday in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office. There were similar meetings in the weeks that followed the fire but there has been none for two months now.
Menin said there was little for the L.M.D.C. to say while the subcontract was being negotiated, but the corporation should have let interested people know about LVI once the press release was issued.
She said she did send an email to interested community board members after her meeting with Schick. “There does need to be more frequent meetings and more outreach,” she said.