Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Contractor Sidesteps Questions On Deutsche Bank Fire

Also see: "The Burnt-Out Deutsche Bank Building & the Gambino Family ... " - http://aconstantineblacklist.blogspot.com/2007/09/burnt-out-deutsche-bank-building.html

Contractor Sidesteps Questions On Deutsche Bank Fire
August 30, 2007

NEW YORK - The main contractor for the demolition of a contaminated ground zero skyscaper where two firefighters died defended its performance at a raucous public meeting, and said a new safety plan was in the works.

Bovis Lend Lease executive James Abadie defended the company, saying the organization had at least six safety managers at the site of the former Deutsche Bank tower full time before the fire. City building inspectors were also on the property every day, he said.

About 200 people attended the meeting Wednesday night, including Joseph Graffagnino, whose firefighter son was killed by the blaze.

Deutsche Bank Contractor Faces Public

Officials from Bovis answered some questions but declined to speak about the fire, citing the investigation. They said the firm was developing a new safety plan and expected to have the broken standpipe repaired and operational by Friday.

"We were the only contractor willing to step forward to take down this building," Bovis Executive Vice President Mark Melson told the crowd, some of whom greeted company officials with catcalls.

Graffagnino said he was disappointed that Bovis officials couldn't answer questions about the fire, but he wasn't ready to condemn them for his son's death.

"I don't blame Bovis," he said. "I don't know who to blame."

Earlier Wednesday, one of three fire officials reassigned for failing to order inspections of the building said the department had a long-standing policy not to go into it because of concerns about the toxic debris inside.

And a retired firefighter from Engine 10/Ladder 10 said he was instructed by a battalion chief two years ago never to go into the former Deutsche Bank tower again after he and three others donned protective suits and boots to search the building for falling glass.

The chief told the firefighters, "That's it. You guys don't go in this building no more. This is not right," said retired firefighter Peter D'Ancona.

The Fire Department on Monday reassigned three officials they said either ignored suggestions to develop a complete fire plan for the partially dismantled tower or failed to inspect it as required.

The department said it hadn't inspected the building's standpipe, which sends water through the building, in over a year before the Aug. 18 blaze. It was required to do so every 15 days. The standpipe was broken at the time of the fire, leaving more than 100 firefighters with a scant water supply to fight the flames.

Capt. Peter Bosco, who came to Engine 10/Ladder 10, the local firehouse next door to the tower, within the last year, was one of the three officials reassigned this week for failing to inspect the building.

Bosco "inherited an existing policy of non-inspection" of the building, his lawyer and brother, John Bosco, said in a statement.

The policy was in place "to protect firefighters from exposure to deadly and noxious airborne toxins," Bosco said. The statement did not say how the captain learned of the policy; John Bosco didn't immediately return a telephone message Wednesday.

Fire Department spokesman Jim Long said the department is still investigating to determine what the firehouse's policy was and whether chiefs gave varying instructions about the building. "They're trying to determine all that you're asking," he said Wednesday.

D'Ancona, who retired last November from the firehouse, said two supervisors told him and his colleagues in 2005 that the department would no longer enter the building because of toxic materials inside. Firefighters are among thousands of people who attribute cancers and respiratory disease to breathing in the dust from the smoking World Trade Center ruins after Sept. 11, 2001.

D'Ancona said when he arrived at the tower sometime in 2005 to inspect it after a report of falling glass, he was told to don protective suits and duct-taped booties. Before leaving, they went through decontamination showers and their suits were vacuumed of any toxic dust.

The chiefs, he said, "were looking to protect us, the firefighters from any deadly contaminants in this building," D'Ancona said.

The union representing fire officers wrote a letter Wednesday to Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta seeking a formal report of an April 2005 visit to the tower, which the city said last week was attended by battalion and division members overseeing the local firehouse.

John McDonnell, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, said that the visit should have provided top officials in the department information about the fire hazards and toxins in the building.

State and city officials are conducting multiple investigations into the blaze, which was believed to have started by discarded cigarettes left by construction workers.

Prosecutors have subpoenaed records from the fire department, city Department of Buildings, the building's contractors and its owner, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., but have yet to receive any documents.

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