Volume 22, Number 10 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 17 - 23, 2009
Two more disciplined in Deutsche fire
By Julie Shapiro
The fallout from the city’s investigation into the fatal Deutsche Bank fire continued last week, as the Dept. of Buildings announced Friday that it was disciplining two supervisors for their failures leading up to the fire.
The Buildings Dept. assigned poorly trained inspectors to the contaminated Deutsche Bank building and never ensured that the building was adequately inspected, problems that were detailed in a Dept. of Investigation report last month. Proper inspections could have averted the dangerous conditions in the building at the time of the August 18, 2007 fire, in which two firefighters were killed, the report said.
The D.O.B. previously disciplined Robert Iulo, who was supervising Buildings inspectors at the time of the fire and retired after the D.O.B. levied charges against him. Now, the D.O.B. is also reprimanding Thomas Connors, executive director of construction site safety, and Christopher Santulli, acting assistant commissioner of emergency and safety operations.
“Connors and Santulli were aware that the inspectors were not adequately trained but failed to follow up to ensure that they received training,” the D.O.B. said in a press release.
Connors selected the inspectors who were supposed to keep watch on the Deutsche Bank building, and he picked people with no experience on demolition sites, the D.O.I. report states. One of the inspectors could not even recognize a standpipe, which supplies water to firefighters. An undetected broken standpipe at the Deutsche Bank building at the time of the fire contributed to the fire’s deadliness.
Santulli was the Buildings Dept.’s Manhattan borough commissioner prior to the fire, and he was aware of some of the problems at the Deutsche Bank building but did not make sure they were fixed, the D.O.I. report states. Santulli was aware of the plastic-covered plywood panels blocking the stairways at the Deutsche Bank building, but he thought it was up to the Dept. of Environmental Protection to inspect them. Those panels, used to separate cleaned floors from contaminated ones, prevented firefighters from escaping the smoke-filled building during the fire.
Connors and Santulli will be allowed to remain in their positions, though Connors will have to undergo management training, the D.O.B. said.
The Fire Dept. disciplined seven officers last month after seeing the D.O.I.’s report. A criminal investigation into the fire resulted in manslaughter indictments last year of three private construction supervisors and one of the subcontractors, John Galt Corp.
Since the fire, the city has made many changes to increase inter-agency coordination and oversight of decontamination and demolition projects.
The Deutsche Bank building is still being cleaned so it can be demolished. It is decontaminated down through the first floor, which was cleared by government regulators this week, L.M.D.C. spokesperson John De Libero said. The basement will be cleaned by the end of July. Deconstruction is now scheduled to start at the beginning of August as soon as the building is clean, De Libero said, and it will take six months to complete, which means the building could be gone by early February 2010.