WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Workmen now have the former Deutsche Bank building, badly damaged on 9/11, down to just four stories. But despite the progress, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has told Lower Manhattan's Community Board 1 that problems with a crane at the site mean that the LMDC would not be finished with clearing the site until sometime early next year.
The building, including its extensive basement and massive coin vault, needs to be totally demolished so the Port Authority can begin work on the World Trade Center's Vehicular Security Checkpoint. And part of the site still has to be searched for 9/11 human remains.
The office tower underwent a lengthy and controversial decontamination process. The demolition has been plagued by delays, enforcement actions and blown deadlines.
In August 2007, a fire in the partially demolished building claimed the lives of two firefighters and injured scores of others. The fire also led to the criminal indictment of two of the project's sub-contractors and a safety official with the prime contractor Bovis Lend Lease. All three have plead not guilty to the charges.
A report issued at the time by then Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau was harshly critical of both the private contractors on the job and government regulators, including the Fire Department, which the report said had failed to properly inspect the site. The fatal fire, along with the DA's report on hazardous conditions at the the site before the fire, prompted major changes to the City's building code and enforcement practices.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation bought the building in August 2004 for more than $90 million dollars and says that almost $300 million dollars has been spent on the demolition and site clean-up.
According to the Port Authority, the delays have cost the agency an additional $100 million dollars they say were incurred "working around" the impact of the Deutsche Bank demolition project.
What remains an open question is what will happen to the land once the Port Authority's subsurface work on the WTC Vehicle Security Checkpoint is finished. Initially, JP Morgan planned on building on the 130 Liberty site but backed out after the global financial meltdown.
In a written statement, the Port Authority said it was still operating under the assumption that, per an existing memorandum of understanding it with the LMDC, it would get the development rights for the site.
“We fully expect the property to transfer to the Port Authority once the former Deutche Bank building is down, as has been contemplated and agreed to since day one of the World Trade Center redevelopment process,” read the Port Authority statement.
Right now, officials with the LMDC are only talking about providing the Port Authority access to the site so they can complete the subsurface WTC vehicle checkpoint.