Bills Aimed At Abatements
May 11th, 2009
Almost two years ago, two firefighters died in a blaze at the former Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan.
Today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and members of the Bloomberg administration announced the introduction of 11 bills aimed at preventing similar tragedies. The legislation focuses on abatement and demolition practices as well as standpipe and sprinkler systems.
At the former Deutsche Bank, firefighters were unable to quickly put out the blaze because a standpipe had been disconnected during the deconstruction and abatement of the tower. The abatement process created “maze-like” conditions in the 40-story building, which was being taken down after it was severely damaged in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Firefighters Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia died as a result.
Charges have been filed against the contractor in charge of the project, the John Galt Corporation. Three men have been charged with manslaughter for dismantling the standpipe, which would have fed firefighters battling the blaze gallons upon gallons of water.
This afternoon, Graffagnino’s father came to City Hall, standing side by side with city officials, to congratulate them on the legislative package.
“I think this is absolutely fantastic,” said the firefighter’s father, who is also named Joseph Graffagnino.
The bills, which will be introduced at the council’s next stated meeting and will likely be quickly steered through the legislative process, will require color coding for sprinkler systems and standpipes, in hopes of preventing their accidental dismantling. It will restrict the simultaneous demolition and abatement of most buildings, and require air pressurized systems in dry standpipes to ensure they are not dismantled.
The package will also enhance inter-agency communication, specifically between the buildings, fire and environmental protection departments. This coordination, said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, will not only ensure that each agency is kept abreast of violations, but will also ensure that firefighters who are approaching a scene will know the terrain and the type of environment they could be confronted with.
If approved, permits will be required for dismantling sprinkler or standpipe systems and site safety managers would have to check standpipes daily. The package would also require permits for high-risk abatement work and mandate the use of fire-retardant materials.
The legislation would also ban smoking at all construction, demolition or abatement sites. A cigarette caused the Deutsche Bank blaze.By Courtney Gross on May 11, 2009, 5:28 pm
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