Volume 22, Number 11 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 31 - August 6, 2009

Deutsche questions continue to pile

By Julie Shapiro

The agency charged with bringing down the former Deutsche Bank building could not give a schedule this week for when the demolition would begin or how long it would take.

David Emil, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which owns the building, testified at a City Council hearing Monday but did not provide much of the information City Councilmember Alan Gerson was looking for.

Emil said contractor Bovis Lend Lease was still completing a final “means and methods” plan for the demolition of the 26-story building and then had to finish construction drawings. The Dept. of Buildings would have to approve those plans before issuing a demolition permit, Emil said. He hoped to have a permit sometime in August, but it depends on the schedule of approvals, he said.

A Buildings Dept. spokesperson later said the demolition plan hadn’t been submitted yet but should be approved “in the coming weeks.”

Previously, the L.M.D.C. had said demolition would take six months on many occasions, but Emil would not give a timeline on Monday because the schedule could change based on Bovis’ final plans.

“It’s very hard to say exactly how long it’s going to take to demolish the building,” Emil said.

Gerson questioned him, growing increasingly incredulous.

“Aren’t you as the owner keeping in regular touch with all the contractors who would have a sense of the timetable and how it’s evolving?” Gerson asked. “How could you not have a general sense of whether it will be down at the beginning of 2010, or the end of 2010, or later?”

Emil said he did not want to speculate, but he should have an answer in several weeks.

In the meantime, Bovis and subcontractor LVI Environmental Services are finishing the decontamination of the building, ridding it of 9/11 toxins. All that’s left is some fine cleaning in the basement, the removal of one floor of the facade and the abatement of several columns, work that should be done in the first half of August, Emil said.

Once the cleaning is done, Emil wants to begin preparatory demolition work, but it is unclear whether that work can be done without a demolition permit. Emil was unsure at the hearing, and an L.M.D.C. spokesperson and the city Buildings Dept. did not comment on the question.

At the hearing, Sally Regenhard, whose son was killed on 9/11, pointed out that several parts of the Deutsche Bank site, including the Liberty St. plaza, have never been searched for human remains. Emil did not know whether a search would take place before demolition begins, and Ellen Borakove, spokesperson for the city Medical Examiner’s Office, did not have details either.

The project has also been hampered recently by two partial stop-work orders from the city, one for a falling chunk of concrete and another for the absence of a drawing for a stair tower. John De Libero, L.M.D.C. spokesperson, said the problems would be resolved soon.

All of the schedule uncertainty means that demolition of the building is not likely to resume until after Aug. 18, the two-year anniversary of the 2007 fire in the building that killed two firefighters.

The uncertainty and delays at the Deutsche Bank building have set back the Port Authority’s vehicle security center, which is slated to be built on the site and serve the World Trade Center. To make sure the security center doesn’t fall behind, the Port Authority announced last week that they would build a temporary concrete wall down the middle of the security center site, so work on the western half of the foundation can proceed before the Deutsche Bank building comes down. The Port will begin constructing the wall in September and remove it just over a year later, the Port said.

In the wake of the fatal August 2007 fire, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau launched several investigations into the Deutsche Bank building, one of which resulted in manslaughter indictments of three construction supervisors late last year.

On Tuesday, another one of the D.A.’s investigations bore fruit, resulting in the indictment of two men in a check-cashing scheme that skirted state reporting requirements, according to Morgenthau. John Galt Corp., the former subcontractor at the Deutsche Bank building, a company with reputed mob ties that was also indicted for manslaughter in connection with the fire, was one of dozens of construction-related companies involved in the check scheme, the D.A. said.

In the indictment, Riad Khalil, 46, is accused of bundling the checks, and Neil Goldstein, 53, owned two of the check-cashing companies accused of being involved in under-the-table deals. Each has been indicted on 122 counts of falsifying business records and 64 counts of failure to file a currency transaction report, punishable by up to a total of five years in jail. Both men pleaded not guilty.




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