Volume 22, Number 29 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 27 - December 3, 2009

Downtown Express photo (far right) by Julie Shapiro

The plaza in front of 7 W.T.C. is sunnier now that Fiterman Hall is demolished. Below left, workers were clearing debris out of the site and removing the sidewalk shed last week. Officials hope to break ground next week on the new Fiterman, right.

One more 9/11 blight to go. Fiterman is down

By Julie Shapiro

A 15-story relic of 9/11 finally disappeared this week, as workers dismantled the last remaining pieces of Fiterman Hall.

The City University of New York classroom building, just north of the World Trade Center site and heavily damaged on 9/11, had stood shrouded in black netting for years, casting a figurative shadow on Downtown’s recovery and a physical one on the rebuilt 7 World Trade Center. By the end of last week, little more than the plywood sidewalk shed remained.

“It’s just so exciting,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee. “Having [Fiterman Hall] down indicates that redevelopment is really moving forward.”

The last pieces of debris from Fiterman will be gone by Thanksgiving, clearing the way for a groundbreaking on the new Fiterman Hall next week. The rebuilt Fiterman, designed by Pei Cobb Freed, will have classrooms, student lounges and faculty offices for the Borough of Manhattan Community College, along with a public cafe and art gallery on the ground floor. The new 14-story building is scheduled to open in spring 2012.

Possibly the happiest person to see Fiterman gone is Larry Silverstein, who made no secret of his distaste for his looming front-yard neighbor when he opened 7 W.T.C. in 2006 and was looking for commercial tenants.

“While it was a long time coming,” Silverstein said in a statement Monday, “it is gratifying that after eight years, Fiterman Hall is no longer a blight on Downtown.”

The work to decontaminate and demolish Fiterman was delayed several times, first over insurance and funding disputes and then after the fatal 2007 fire in the Deutsche Bank building, another 9/11-damaged tower. The deconstruction of the 26-story Deutsche Bank building just restarted last week, and it won’t be down until late spring at the earliest.

“We’re down here, and look at the Deutsche Bank,” said Barry Rosen, spokesperson for B.M.C.C. “It’s really amazing.”

Marc Violette, spokesperson of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, which supervised Fiterman’s deconstruction, said the agency was glad to see it done safely.

“It has been, thankfully, a very boring and uneventful process,” Violette said.

The funding battle was much more eventful, with accusations flying between the city and the state before Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver got Mayor Michael Bloomberg to put the remaining $70 million into the $325 million project last year. That agreement ensured that the new Fiterman could rise immediately after the old one came down.

For those accustomed to looking up and seeing the towering black netting from the park in front of 7 W.T.C., the building’s absence is palpable. Many office workers who gathered around the fountain and red Jeff Koons balloon sculpture to eat their lunch in the sun last week said it was about time the building was gone.

“I’m thrilled,” said Kiryn Hoffman, 29, director of development at the New York Academy of Sciences in 7 W.T.C. “It’s been hideous.” Hoffman said she had also been concerned about possible 9/11-related contamination escaping the building.

Jean-Francois Tremblay, an analyst with Moody’s, said he was glad the noisy deconstruction was over, because it was distracting even from inside 7 W.T.C. However, he and a coworker were both a bit disappointed to hear that another building would rise in place of the old one.

“A park would be nicer,” Tremblay said. “But it can’t be any worse than what was there before.”

The groundbreaking for the new Fiterman Hall will be held on Tues., Dec. 1 at 11 a.m. on Greenwich St. between Park Pl. and Barclay St. Beforehand, a parade of B.M.C.C. students, faculty and staff will march from the school on Chambers St. down to Fiterman Hall.




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