By Julie Shapiro
A series of safety violations at Fiterman Hall stopped work on the demolition site twice in the past month.
The Dept. of Buildings issued violations Aug. 8 for piled-up debris and Aug. 3 for falling sparks, a standpipe problem and cigarette butts found on the no-smoking site. A few stop work orders were issued but most of the work was able to resume within several days.
The violations at first appeared reminiscent of the dangerous conditions at the former Deutsche Bank building prior to the fatal 2007 fire there. Both buildings were damaged on 9/11 and they sit on either side of the Trade Center site.
“It does give a moment’s pause,” said Rob Spencer, director of media services at the Organization of Staff Analysts union, and one of the closest watchdogs of the Fiterman and Deutsche projects. The cigarette butts found at Fiterman, in particular, are “not encouraging,” Spencer said.
Richard Dalessio, Fiterman project manager for the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, said the project is safe and the violations reflect the intense scrutiny of the project by the government regulators, including the Buildings Dept., which visits the site daily.
“The fact that violations were issued is a good thing,” Dalessio said. “It shows that the process is working.”
Fiterman Hall, a Borough of Manhattan Community College classroom building, and the Deutsche Bank building both needed to be cleaned and demolished after 9/11. The 2007 fire at the Deutsche Bank building, sparked by a worker’s discarded cigarette, was made more dangerous by the flammable debris in the building, a broken standpipe and the fact that the building was being cleaned and demolished simultaneously.
Since the fire, abatement and demolition projects, including Fiterman, have been subject to much stricter oversight to make them safe.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who convened a taskforce to monitor the Fiterman project, said in a statement that he would continue working with D.O.B. to ensure the site’s safety.
“I am pleased that there has been no recurrence of these violations nor have any new violations been issued,” Silver said this week..
Fiterman was entirely decontaminated before demolition began, which means that there is very little flammable material in the building. The excessive debris violation referred to accumulated concrete, Dalessio said, and he is working with subcontractor Waldorf Exteriors on keeping the floors clean.
The Aug. 3 standpipe violation came during a routine test after the pipe was cut and capped at a lower floor, so an upper floor could be demolished. The pipe did not hold air pressure, and workers discovered a worn rubber gasket was responsible for the leak. They replaced the gasket and the standpipe passed a test the next day, Dalessio said.
The sparks, also noticed Aug. 3, are a natural part of demolition work, as torches cut the building’s steel beams, but workers are now using fire-retardant blankets to prevent the sparks from falling to lower levels, Dalessio said.
After finding the cigarette butts, Dalessio said he reemphasized to the workers that smoking is not allowed on the site. He said he had no hesitations about Waldorf’s fitness for the job. The same company also demolished 99 Church St. nearby. A Waldorf manager did not return a call for comment.
Workers started demolishing Fiterman Hall in July, and the 15-story building has since lost its roof structures and its top two-and-a-half floors. Dalessio expects the building to be down by the end of November. Workers will then begin rebuilding it a week later, he said.