It’s been just over two years since the deconstruction of the former Deutsche Bank building downtown endured a major fire that left two firefighters dead, and the tower—damaged in September 11, 2001—still stands at its same height.
Now, its demolition seems likely to take longer than was expected just months ago.
In June, officials said they expected the black building down by next spring, some eight-and-a-half years after it was damaged. But last month, deconstruction contractor Bovis Lend Lease filed a plan with the city that is considerably lengthier than it initially expected, and one person briefed on the filing said the plan would likely add an additional six months to the deconstruction schedule.
While the plan has not yet been approved—a Bovis spokeswoman said “discussions continue” over the deconstruction filing—an even longer deconstruction would come as a major symbolic and functional blow for Lower Manhattan. At almost every turn, the healing of this gigantic wound from 9/11 (which faces the southern edge of the World Trade Center site) has been prolonged. Since the fatal fire in August 2007, the project has been tripped up by an extraordinary level of regulation, and schedules seem to be pushed every few months.
After an accord in 2004 over the deconstruction, it was initially expected to be down by 2005, costing about $45 million. But since, the costs have risen constantly as the job proved more difficult than expected and regulation piled on after the fire. The total could come closer to $300 million (including the building purchase and other related costs), paid for by the federal government, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (which said in July it would need another $30 to $35 million in additional money to finish the job), and various contractors and insurers. All sides expect more lawsuits, to recover costs, once the building is down.
Throughout the process, the building has seen its share of allegations and findings of incompetence and wrongdoing by city officials and organized crime, and a Village Voice cover story by Wayne Barrett, who was baffled that the fire at the building hadn’t been a major scandal for Mayor Bloomberg. The lengthy and costly effort has also attracted the eye of the Inspector General of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is bankrolling much of the effort out of a fund dedicated to Lower Manahttan.
Added delays would further complicate the already-delayed World Trade Center redevelopment, as construction on a complex vehicle screening center has long been scheduled to begin on the site of the tower.
The deconstruction is the final step, as contractors have now gone through the extraordinarily time consuming process of removing any potentially toxic materials from the building, leaving the structure as a steel skeleton.
A spokesman for the city’s Department of Buildings, Tony Sclafani, said the demolition plan had yet to be approved. “They’ve submitted the demolition plan,” he said. “With any demolition project, there’s a back and forth between the department and the contractor.”