February 18th - February 22nd, 2008
As Fire Inquiry at Ground Zero Grows, So Do the Legal Bills
February 21 - New York City and the state-run Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, both under scrutiny in the criminal investigation into the fatal Deutsche Bank fire, have incurred more than $2.2 million in fees for outside lawyers to defend their roles in the events that led up to the blaze, officials said this week, reported the New York Times.
The investigation, by the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgentha, began in the days after the Aug. 18 fire. Initially it focused on the deaths of two firefighters at the former bank tower, which sits on the edge of ground zero and is being torn down to clear the way for a new office tower.
But it has swiftly and steadily broadened into a vast inquiry. Today, according to officials involved in the undertaking, more than a dozen prosecutors, investigators and forensic accountants are examining not only the fire, but also the conduct of the contractors hired to demolish the building; the performance of city, state and federal regulators who oversaw the demolition and asbestos removal; and the awarding of the $60 million contract.
Bank Tower Contractors Accused of 44 Violations
February 20 - Reported in the New York Times, Federal safety regulators have accused the contractors who were taking down the former Deutsche Bank tower in the summer of indifference or intentional disregard for dangerous conditions that led to a fatal fire there, and of a host of other serious safety violations, officials said on Tuesday.
The regulators cited the project’s general contractor, Bovis Lend Lease, an international construction management company, and its former subcontractor, the John Galt Corporation, for 44 safety violations, and proposed fining them nearly half a million dollars.
Most of the violations, cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a result of an inspection it began after the Aug. 18 fire, were classified as serious, and five were listed as willful, the agency’s most severe category.
The agency focused on fire-related hazards, including a missing section of standpipe that delayed the flow of water to firefighters, and insufficient water supply and water pressure. The blaze killed two firefighters inside the tower, which was being taken apart after being extensively damaged on 9/11.
Port Authority turns over WTC land 48 days late
February 20 - The Port Authority turned over the part of the World Trade Center site where two office towers are planned to a developer, reported Newsday. This clears the way for construction to begin soon on Towers 3 and 4 at Ground Zero.
The Port Authority finished excavating the land Sunday, 48 days behind a deadline it set for itself in an agreement with Larry Silverstein.
The agency paid $14.4 million in late fees to the developer. It said it partly made up for the cost by not paying the contractor a $10 million bonus it would have received for finishing on time.
The Port Authority worked for more than a year to build 80-foot-deep foundations for two towers that Silverstein will build, removing nearly 400,000 tons of concrete, soil and rock.