Volume 17 • Issue 34 • Jan. 14 - 20, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Ramin Talaie

4 Albany St.

After demolition begins, Deutsche presents 4 Albany St. plan

By Ronda Kaysen

The small, neo-classical building at 4 Albany St., damaged and contaminated in the World Trade Center disaster, will face a similar fate of demolition with its neighboring Deutsche Bank building, although without the same level of public scrutiny.

Representatives for Deutsche Bank, which owns the 4 Albany St. property, presented plans for a two-phase demolition process at a Community Board 1 World Trade Center committee meeting on Jan. 10. PAL Environmental Safety Corporation, the contractor hired by Deutsche Bank to demolish the 10-story structure, began work on Dec. 27, although this was the first time Deutsche Bank informed the public about its plans for the site in detail.

The company agreed to demolish the 130,000 sq. ft. structure when it entered into a $30 million sale agreement with developer Joseph Moinian last November. A spokesperson for the Moinian Group said the company was not prepared to discuss its plans for the site, although the New York Post speculates he has plans to build a condo-hotel Downtown.

Contaminated primarily with asbestos and lead, two environmental consultants, RJ Lee Group and Ambient Group, monitor the shrouded and enclosed building. RJ Lee runs the air monitoring systems for the building and sends weekly contaminant level reports to the Environmental Protection Agency. If contaminant levels exceed the Deutsche Bank established early warning levels or Environmental Protection Agency-established trigger levels, RJ Lee has a system in place to contact the agency. “We will be notifying the E.P.A. almost immediately. They will be getting downloads of all the readings,” said Frank Lawatsch, legal counsel for the bank. “They will have more than enough information.”

Unlike the former Deutsche Bank Building at 130 Liberty St., which was sold last August to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a state and city agency, 4 Albany St. is a private building owned by a private company that is not using public funds for the demolition. Beholden to no city agency, Deutsche Bank is not required to open its doors for public scrutiny.

C.B. 1 members were chagrined to learn that Deutsche Bank has no plans for relaying possible contamination problems to the community. “You need to establish a way to communicate quickly to the community and to the public at large,” Madelyn Wils, C.B. 1 chairperson, told the Deutsche Bank representatives.

Concerned that the E.P.A., an agency that came under heavy fire after it misled the community about post-9/11 air quality, Wils insisted that Deutsche Bank establish a direct line of communication between the community and the bank. “We’ve worked with the E.P.A. during 9/11 and we know their shortcomings,” she said. “You have a responsibility to your community. You should figure out a way to communicate with us.”

David Newman, an industrial hygienist for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a panelist on the E.P.A.’s WTC Expert Technical Review Panel, was surprised to learn that Deutsche Bank had been sending contamination readings to the E.P.A. for two years, without any public notification. “I’m a little concerned to hear that this project [the demolition] has been going on for several weeks and that data has been available for several years and we have not been able to access the data,” he said.

Lawatsch saw the lack of public awareness of the data as a positive sign. “We’ve been submitting that information to the city; we just did it as a voluntary measure,” he said. “The data was unremarkable, maybe that’s why it has not gotten a lot of publicity.”

Tishman has already removed 1,000 cubic yards of material from the property since it began the abatement phase of the demolition on Dec. 27 “without incident,” according to Mark Hopper, a project manager for Tishman Interiors, the company overseeing the demolition.

The abatement phase, involves removing the entire interior of the building, leaving behind only a mortar and limestone shell. It is expected to take 12 weeks. Working six days a week, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., four to six container trucks will be loaded daily on Albany St. and hauled to landfills in New York and New Jersey.

Deutsche Bank expects to complete the second phase, the demolition phase, by Memorial Day. The exterior of the building will be peeled inside the empty shell and removed. Working five days a week, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., eight to 10 trucks a day, loaded on Washington St., will remove 5,000 cubic yards of debris from the site, leaving only the building’s foundation intact.

Public dismay for the neo-classical building’s fate was not limited to contamination concerns. Some local residents expressed shock and disappointment that the historic and unassuming building in their midst, built in 1922 by architect Arthur C. Jackson, will be dismantled and hauled in pieces to landfills. “It’s a crime that you are tearing this beautiful building down,” said Esther Regelson, a 109 Washington St. resident. “I’m afraid of what is going to be put in its place.”


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