Volume 22, Number 01 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 15 - 21, 2009

Downtown Express photo by Vadim Shepel

Damaged Fiterman Hall with the 7 World Trade Center plaza in the foreground. The collapse of the original 7 W.T.C. on Sept. 11, 2001, badly damaged the college building.

Fiterman down in ’09 — could it be?

By Julie Shapiro.

The demolition of Fiterman Hall will likely begin later this month, finally removing what residents call a “tombstone” just north of the World Trade Center site.

By the end of October, the 15-story Fiterman Hall, a Borough of Manhattan Community College classroom building damaged heavily on 9/11 and shrouded in black netting for years, will be entirely gone, the project’s consultant said this week. B.M.C.C. and the community have been eagerly awaiting the demolition for nearly eight years.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see our hopes and dreams coming true,” said Barry Rosen, B.M.C.C. spokesperson. The overcrowded college desperately needs the classroom space the rebuilt Fiterman Hall will provide when it opens in 2012.

“It’s great to see it come down, but more importantly it’ll be great to see it go up,” Rosen said.

Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee was also happy to hear of the impending demolition at a meeting Monday night.

“Getting it done is very important to us,” said Tom Goodkind, a member of the committee.

Fiterman Hall has faced several obstacles, including a painstaking asbestos abatement that is nearly complete and battles over insurance and finances, the last of which was resolved last fall when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver persuaded the mayor to put more money in the $325 million project. Once the building is down, workers will reinforce the foundation and the new 14-story building, designed by Pei Cobb Freed, will begin to rise.

“We expect to just roll right into it,” said Richard Dalessio, project manager with the State Dormitory Authority. He predicted no more than a month-long gap between the demolition and new construction.

The rebuilt Fiterman Hall will have classroom, office and lounge space for the college, along with a public cafe and two galleries on the ground floor.

Fiterman Hall’s schedule puts the project ahead of the other “tombstone” abutting the W.T.C. site, the former Deutsche Bank building. After many delays and a fatal fire in 2007, work is moving forward at the 26-story Deutsche Bank building as well, but demolition there will not begin until the middle of July and the building won’t be down until the middle of January, under the most recent schedule.

Preliminary demolition work at Fiterman Hall could begin as early as the end of next week, when the project’s environmental consultant expects to get approval and permits from government regulators. The consultant, Benn Lewis, vice president of Airtek Environmental Corp., said Tishman/LiRo would manage the deconstruction.

But before that work can begin, workers have to finish the thorough cleaning of the building to remove 9/11 contaminants. Workers have gutted all 15 floors and meticulously removed even specks of dirt and dust. The only areas that still have to be cleaned are on the basement and first floor and none comprise more than a couple hundred square feet, Lewis said.

Once the building is decontaminated, workers will remove equipment and scaffolding, and then they will prepare for demolition by bracing the building and replacing glass windows with boards.

The workers will also use a crane, stationed on Greenwich St., to remove heavy equipment like elevator motors and to load Bobcats into the building, Lewis said. The crane will be in place for three to four days, he said.

During demolition, workers will have to contend with one more potential source of contamination: asbestos on the spandrel beams, which are sandwiched in the facade. Workers cannot access the beams now but will stop to abate them on each floor after removing the brick exterior, Lewis said. On each floor, they will cycle through demolition, abatement and then demolition.

“Repeat that 15 times and you’ve got a hole in the ground,” Lewis said.

During Monday night’s presentation, Lewis preempted questions about safety by answering them in advance. The building has two standpipes, which carry water to upper floors during a fire, and workers will cut and cap the standpipes as each floor is demolished and retest them every time, Lewis said.

Also, workers will use an interior shaft to dispose of steel and concrete during the demolition, rather than an exterior chute, he said.






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