August 18 was a tragic reminder of the dangers associated with rebuilding our
community six years after September 11, 2001. Two firefighters, Robert Beddia
and Joe Graffagnino, needlessly died putting out a fire at 130 Liberty Street
at a building that had long sparked controversy.
The History of a Troubled Site
When Community Board 1 urged the adoption of an emergency and community notification
plan in October 2005, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation told the board
that residents should "call 911."
Unsatisfied with this clearly problematic answer, Chairperson Julie Menin wrote
to then President Stefan Pryor of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
regarding the need to expeditiously implement a codified community notification
plan with phone trees. We proposed a myriad of ideas, including email blasts,
building captains and two-way hand-held radios. Unfortunately, the letter received
On April 18, 2006, Community Board 1 unanimously passed a resolution expressing
our serious concerns about the safety record of Bovis Lend Lease’s subcontractor,
John Galt Corporation. Specifically, the board questioned the poor safety record
of John Galt and one of its affiliates.
In addition, Community Board 1 had pulled out of a Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
sponsored “open house” on October 24, 2005 when the previous corporation's
administration under Governor George Pataki would not let the community ask questions
The Actions Since The Fire
In light of the most recent tragedy at Ground Zero, we once again met with state
and local leaders to discuss the need for a notification and an emergency plan.
Three days following the fire, Community Board 1 members met with Assembly Speaker
Sheldon Silver, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Lower Manhattan
Construction Command Center and other elected officials. At that meeting, we
discussed the need for a notification and emergency plan to be in place and
our concern with Bovis Lend Lease and their subcontractor John Galt, as we had
done numerous times in the past.
Community Board 1 held an emergency public hearing following that meeting, which
also included representatives from numerous city, state and federal offices,
such as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Lower Manhattan Construction
Command Center, the Bloomberg administration, the Community Assistance Unit,
Department of Buildings, the fire department, Office of Emergency Management,
Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health & Mental
Hygiene, the federal Occupational Safety Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency â€“ Region 2.
More than 100 downtown community members attended, serving as a true testament
to the dedication and concern downtown residents have about our community. The
meeting not only gave the downtown community an opportunity to hear directly
from the agencies involved but also resulted in many productive initial steps.
First, we urged that John Galt [which has
fired] be removed from the job, given the numerous Occupational Safety Health
Administration violations and buildings department complaints against
it. (Although Bovis Lend Lease and John Galt were specifically invited, they
failed to appear much to the consternation of the community). [Bovis has since
agreed to meet with
Board 1 and other elected officials.]
Second, at this meeting Edward Skyler, the deputy mayor for administration, and
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Chairman Avi Schick committed to meet
with Community Board 1 immediately to devise a community notification plan.
Third, we voiced our strong concerns that the Deutsche Bank building be immediately resealed
without any delay.
Fourth, fire inspection teams will be evaluating the fire-fighting systems inside
two other buildings that will be shortly decontaminated and deconstructed/rehabilitated
-- Fiterman Hall at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and 130 Cedar
Where We Go From Here
Although we all want the 130 Liberty Street building to be taken down, we have
requested that it be done in a manner that is safe for both the workers, first
responders and the people who live and work nearby. The next steps include:
1. Secure the fire-damaged, World Trade Center-contaminated building so that
debris will not fall out and injure someone. [Two firefighters were injuredlast Thursday at the site when a John Galt worker lost control of a forklift
and it toppled from the building].
2. Determine why the fire occurred and put in place a plan so that it will never
happen again. Such a plan should mandate that the water main that supplies water
to the building and various floors would be functioning during the remainder
of this difficult project.
3. Develop a contingency plan for various emergencies â€“ including fighting
a fire â€“ and make sure that as work proceeds in this building the response
team is given the floor plans as they change.
4. Create an effective communication plan from city agencies to neighborhood
residents and businesses â€“ consider text messaging, a phone tree, reverse
911, televised announcements and e-mail blasts in real time. Such communications
should include whether residents/workers should evacuate or stay in their homes
or at work, whether they need emergency breathing apparatus and if a building
is in danger of collapse.
5. Determine whether the fire re-contaminated the previously decontaminated area,
and if so, require such area to be re-cleaned and re-inspected prior to demolition.
6. Review the impact of water damage from putting out the fire so that mold will
not be an issue in the remaining hot days of summer.
7. Hire a responsible subcontractor to replace John Galt -- one that, as required
by the Procurement Policy Board Rules of the City of New York, is capable "in
all respects to perform the contract requirements fully" and has "the
business integrity to justify the award of public tax dollars."
8. Require vigilant enforcement of city building, construction, safety, and fire
codes and regulations --including no smoking on the construction site.
9. Test residential and work areas in the immediate area and, if necessary, clean
It is imperative to take the lessons learned from the 130 Liberty Street tragedy
and make sure that they are implemented going forward at that building and at
Fiterman Hall and 130 Cedar Street as well.
Unfortunately, our community has already been the target of two terrorist attacks,
and if any lesson has been learned, it is that we must prevent a senseless tragedy
like this from ever happening again and ensure that the community is protected.
Julie Menin and Catherine McVay Hughes are chairperson and vice-chair of Community
Board 1, which includes Ground Zero and the surrounding area.
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