Volume 20, Number 36 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Feb. 1 - 7 , 2008

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

The former Deutsche Bank building across from the World Trade Center site stands now at 26 stories and there is no date yet to resume demolition.

E.P.A. says it waited 5 months for Deutsche demo plan

By Julie Shapiro

Just over five months after the fatal blaze at the former Deutsche Bank building, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation submitted its first official plan for the building to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The E.P.A. has been criticized in some quarters for delaying the resumption of the work, but the agency says it didn’t get a final plan to approve until last week, and that was changed two days later.

Pat Evangelista, the E.P.A.’s World Trade Center coordinator, told Downtown Express that the L.M.D.C. gave the plan to the E.P.A. Jan. 21, then revised and resubmitted it Jan. 23.

The L.M.D.C., charged with decontaminating and demolishing 130 Liberty St., has floated other plans in the past, but this was “the first ‘plan’ plan,” Evangelista, said.

The L.M.D.C. submitted the plan to several other government agencies as well, Evangelista said. After a community meeting Jan. 24, Evangelista said he had started reviewing the plan but couldn’t comment on specifics. He did not say if the L.M.D.C.’s plan would abate the entire building before starting demolition, a choice E.P.A. would support.

Avi Schick, L.M.D.C. chairperson, has long been leaning toward abating before demolishing. He and L.M.D.C. president David Emil came close to committing to that course at the community meeting.

Emil said the L.M.D.C. is working on an abatement plan and will come up with a deconstruction plan while the building is being abated. Schick hurried to add that the corporation hasn’t decided on anything yet.

Kimberly Flynn, head of 9/11 Environ­mental Action, was concerned that by the time the L.M.D.C. finalizes a plan and city agencies approve it, it will be too late for the community to give meaningful input.

“Even in the bad old days of Pataki,” Flynn said, the community had a chance to see draft plans and give input before the agencies made final decisions. “The sky isn’t going to fall if we get to look at those plans.”

Since the fire, head contractor Bovis Lend Lease has shied away from admitting any mistakes or wrongdoing. But Frank Voci, senior vice president of Bovis, came close to doing just that at the meeting. His goal, he told the audience, “is to regain your trust and confidence. I’ve lived in New York City all my life. Ground zero is very important to me. This project is very important to me.”

He also said he joined the project after the fire.

Voci called the tall building crane “an eyesore” because neighbors see it standing still day after day. He promised to get the crane moving, using it to remove debris from the building’s top floors.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver attended the meeting, which was held in his hearing room. He started to criticize L.M.D.C., but ultimately struck a more positive tone and focused on the future. “The new administration should be in full swing in its second year,” he said, referring to Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s appointees.

The L.M.D.C. said last week it expects to have 130 Liberty St. down by the end of 2008. When asked if L.M.D.C.’s contracts with Bovis and subcontractor LVI Services include deadlines, Schick replied that LVI’s contract did not, but he did not say anything about Bovis. Prior to the fire, the L.M.D.C. agreed not to dispute $6 million of payments to Bovis if the building was taken down by the end of 2007.

Dave Newman, industrial hygienist for New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, accused the L.M.D.C. of hiding information. Newman later provided Downtown Express with copies of freedom of information law requests he sent to the L.M.D.C. Among other documents, Newman wanted a copy of the fire safety agreement between the city and L.M.D.C. from last September, shortly after the fire that killed two firefighters.

In a reply this month, Irene Chang, counsel for L.M.D.C., told Newman the document does not exist. However, Newman also provided Downtown Express with a copy of a fire safety agreement, in the form of a Sept. 11, 2007 letter by Schick and Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler to the E.P.A.

An L.M.D.C. spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Several people, including Newman, mentioned the L.M.D.C.’s Community Advisory Council, which L.M.D.C. all but disbanded early last summer. Schick told the audience L.M.D.C. has been meeting with community members in Silver’s office regularly since the fire, but several people called out, “That’s not the same thing.” Schick said he didn’t understand the difference. Julie Menin, C.B. 1’s chairperson, suggested including Community Advisory Council members at Silver’s meetings in the future.

Toward the end of the meeting, Schick put the community’s concerns into words that everyone could agree with.

“What people want to see is progress,” he said. “And frankly, words mean much less than progress.”

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