AsthmaMoms World Trade Center: Environmental Health Articles

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9/11 WTC Environmental Health News
2009 Archive

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2009

NOVEMBER

  • CUNY’s Fiterman Hall Building To Be Demolished Before Thanksgiving … A building that has served as a grim reminder of the September 11th attack in Lower Manhattan is itself about to become history. WNYC’s Bob Hennelly has more. REPORTER: Fiterman Hall was a 14-story building owned by the City University of New York, just a couple blocks north of the World Trade Center site. Most of it is gone now, after an extensive decontamination and demolition process. Officials say the whole building will be down before Thanksgiving. Catherine McVeigh Hughes,with Community Board One, says the impact from the ruin’s removal is dramatic. HUGHES: You no longer saw the building shrouded and you saw this sunlight beaming in. It was absolutely gorgeous. It is great to have that constant reminder of September 11th to be gone. REPORTER: Officials say a new $320-million classroom building will be open for students by the fall of 2012. For WNYC I am Bob Hennelly. (WNYC, by Bob Hennelly, November 13, 2009)
  • Reports of Deutsche demo were exaggerated … Demolition work still has not begun at the former Deutsche Bank building. A spokesperson for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which owns the building, said last Wednesday that crews had started knocking down the 26th floor. This week, the spokesperson, John De Libero, said the start of work was delayed because the equipment mobilization took longer than expected and the scissor crane operators had to go through city Dept. of Buildings training. De Libero said the training is now complete and work should begin later this week. The skyscraper across from the World Trade Center site was damaged on 9/11 and has been beset with many obstacles since then, including numerous safety violations and a fire in August 2007 that killed two firefighters. The latest accident came on Tuesday, when a wrench fell from the 26th floor of the building, hit a loading dock and bounced up to strike a worker on the knee, according to the L.M.D.C. and the D.O.B. The worker was treated at the scene for minor injuries and then was taken to the hospital as a precaution, the L.M.D.C. said. The D.O.B. issued violations but did not stop work on the project. (Downtown Express, November 13 – 19, 2009)
  • Rain and Filters Clean Downtown Air .. Lower Manhattan’s air is getting cleaner, a Downtown agency reported last week. Air samples taken from five locations below Canal St. showed less dust and diesel fumes in 2008 than in 2007, and most of the locations were cleaner than 2006 as well, according to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center. “Our goal was either to maintain the background level [of pollutants] or reduce it if we could,” said Thomas Kunkel, director of environmental compliance for the L.M.C.C.C. “It all came together and we reduced it.” Of the many factors that helped clean the air, the most significant is likely the increased regulation of federally funded construction projects, which include the World Trade Center rebuilding and the Fulton Transit Center. The contractors at those projects are required to install diesel particulate filters on their equipment. Also, those projects and many other public and private ones Downtown are using ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, which has become more widely available in the past few years and produces less pollution than standard diesel fuel. In addition, many agencies, including the construction command center, have been cracking down on bus and truck idling, a particularly big problem among tour buses near the W.T.C. and the Seaport. … For particulate matter 10, Lower Manhattan has been far below the federal standard since 2005, the first year data is available. But even so, monitors at Greenwich St., Catherine St., the World Financial Center and One Chase Manhattan Plaza have noted decreases in the past two years, ranging from 4 percent to 13 percent. Kunkel expects pollution rates to continue to decline based on the command center and other agencies’ efforts, though he said the numbers will eventually plateau.
  • 9/11’s delayed legacy: cancer for many of the rescue workers … A spate of recent deaths of New York police and fire officers who took part in the emergency operation at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks has heightened fears that it could be the start of a delayed epidemic of cancer-related illness. Five firefighters and police officers, all of whom were involved in the rescue and clear-up at the site of the collapsed Twin Towers, have died of cancer in the past three months, the oldest being 44. Three died last month within a four-day period. Those three were Robert Grossman, a Harlem-based police officer who spent several weeks at the emergency site and died of a brain tumour aged 41; fellow police officer Cory Diaz, 37; and firefighter Richard Mannetta, 44. In addition, John McNamara, a 44-year-old firefighter, died in September; and Renee Dunbar, a police officer in her late 30s, died in August. The cluster of cancer deaths comes as Congress is under pressure to pass legislation that would provide federal help to emergency workers who have contracted illnesses since 9/11. Campaigners hope that a bill will be put to the House of Representatives by the end of the year that would set up a $10bn (£6bn) national fund for hundreds of people who now have cancer, respiratory illnesses and other diseases that may be linked to their work at the World Trade Centre site…. Michael Valentin, who volunteers for the group, spent about four months working around the pile of debris from the towers. He now has lymphatic tumours in his chest, as well as asbestos poisoning. … (11 November 2009)
  • Eight Years Later, WTC Asthma Cases Still a Concern … Reverend Eleni Marudis was a volunteer chaplain at the World Trade Center site. Three months after, she was diagnosed with asthma and says every time she struggles taking a breath it serves as a humbling recollection. “Suffering from asthma, it’s not just the suffering from asthma. It’s just knowing that it is related to that experience so every time you’re short of breath I am reminded of why,” Marudis said. Reverend Marudis is just one of thousands of 9/11 responders who now have asthma. The latest research from the Mt. Sinai World Trade Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program shows 9/11 workers are twice as likely to be asthmatic. Eight percent of responders have asthma compared to only four percent of the entire U.S. population. “For the most part, these are men and women who are very healthy before 9/11. A lot of them were police, firefighters, people in construction. People that needed to be strong. People that needed to pass a physical exam to get the job. And therefore only one or two percent had asthma before 9/11. Now eight percent have it after 9/11. That’s a big increase,” said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Reverend Marudis says asthma has gotten in the way of her ability to function. “I have a shortness of breath. I’m much more susceptible to my environment,” Marudis said. … Along with asthma, they’ve discovered other respiratory problems and even cancers. Yet researchers still stop short of definitively saying being at the site is the direct cause of all their health complications. They say what the data does show though is a need to continue to track the health of responders. … Even eight years after the attacks, doctors at Mt. Sinai say they are still seeing 150 new patients every month. … (NY1, by Kafi Drexel, 11/10/2009)
  • 9/11 Health Bill … A bill before Congress would provide the first long-term healthcare for people who believe their illnesses are caused by 9/11 — but some local activists say the bill does not go far enough. “This bill will fail to address the real impact in the community,” said Kimberly Flynn, founder of 9/11 Environmental Action. Called the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the $12 billion bill would reopen the 9/11 victim compensation fund and would cover healthcare for many first responders, cleanup workers and Lower Manhattan residents. The bill has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate but is unlikely to move until after President Obama’s larger healthcare overhaul is resolved. Similar legislation has had the backing of almost the entire New York Congressional delegation for a few years, but it has never advanced far. Last month, Flynn’s group and Beyond Ground Zero wrote to the bill’s sponsors and other legislators to say the bill needs work. The bill only covers residents, students and office workers who were below Houston St. on 9/11, while Flynn and others think the dividing line should be extended at least up to 14th St.. Also, the bill would provide funding for a maximum of 15,000 non-responders. Flynn said the number who will need the service could be much higher since many more people breathed in toxic chemicals on 9/11. So far, only about 4,000 non-responders have visited the city’s free W.T.C. Environmental Health Centers for treatment, Flynn said, but she added that many more people may be sick and are either receiving treatment elsewhere or are not being treated. Flynn and the other activists are also concerned that the bill covers only the most commonly reported 9/11 health effects, like respiratory problems, but does not cover those that are still emerging, like cancers. The activists want more research into new illnesses and retroactive compensation if those illnesses are found to be 9/11-related. (Downtown Express, by Julie Shapiro, Nov. 6-12, 2009)
  • City Issues Demolition Permits For Former Deutsche Bank Building … The long-delayed demolition of the former Deutsche Bank building is finally set to resume. The city has issued demolition permits to contractor Bovis Lend Lease, allowing work to get going later this week. The original completion date in 2005 has been repeatedly pushed back, and construction costs have skyrocketed. Out of the 40-story tower, 26 floors still need to be taken down. The project has faced a series of setbacks including a deadly fire in August 2007, when two firefighters were killed. (NY1, 11/03/2009)
  • WTC Responders Plagued with Asthma: Reported Asthma in 9/11 Responders 2X Greater Than General Population … As many as 8 percent of the workers and volunteers who engaged in rescue and recovery, essential service restoration, and cleanup efforts in the wake of 9/11 reported experiencing post-9/11 asthma attacks or episodes, compared with 4 percent of the general population. Furthermore, the lifetime prevalence of asthma in WTC responders was marked by a dramatic increase from 3 percent pre-9/11 to a high of 16 percent in each of the years from 2005 through 2007. “Although previous WTC studies have shown significant respiratory problems, this is the first study to directly quantify the magnitude of asthma among WTC responders compared with the general US population,” said Hyun Kim, ScD, Instructor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM), New York, NY, and lead author of the analysis which uses data obtained from the federally-funded World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program. “Six years out from 9/11, the World Trade Center Program was still observing responders affected by asthma episodes and attacks at more than double the percentage of people not exposed to World Trade Center dust. … (American College of Chest Physicians, Nov. 3, 2009)
  • Demolition Resumes on Trouble Plagued Deutsche Bank Bldg … Lawsuits, mishaps, massive cost overruns, alleged criminal misconduct and, tragically, the deaths of two firefighters have plagued the building since its mortal blow from the collapsing World Trade Center across the street. Only now, at a cost that has soared to more than $170 million, does the end appear to be in sight. Mindful of the building’s painful past, a top Buildings Department official and the contractor overseeing the job, Bovis Lend Lease, are taking pains to satisfy the public that every safety measure is taken to prevent more careless mishaps and fires. “We believe very strongly that we have established the safest method possible to take down this building,” said Steven Sommer, the Bovis executive in charge of the project. That method won city approval late last month, paving the way for demolition to resume more than two years after it was halted following the blaze that took the two firefighters’ lives on Aug. 17, 2007. Since then, only decontamination of the building—completed in September—has continued. Last month, at a public meeting hosted by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the building’s owner, Sommer presented a detailed description of how the building will be taken down. Repeatedly using terms such as “mechanically controlled demolition” and “100 percent fall protection,” he described a method in which workers remotely control jackhammers to crush concrete floors, and ironworkers, safely aboard scissor lifts, cut steel beams. At each cutting site, and on the floor below, a safety guard stands by, ready to douse a fire. Fatma Amer, the Department of Buildings’ First Deputy Commissioner, said that seven DOB supervisors and 17 inspectors will oversee the work. The floors being demolished, and the two floors below, are encased in fire-retardant plywood. The entire building is shrouded in a new blue fire-retardant netting. A broken standpipe—the reason water could not get to firemen fighting the 2007 blaze—cannot go unnoticed, Sommer said. Now they are rigged with pressurized alarms. In the meantime, LMDC is not willing to say when the work will be completed. “We expect the job to get into a rhythm but we would like to see how long the work takes on the first couple of floors,” said LMDC president David Emil. (Tribeca Trib, Nov. 2, 2009)

OCTOBER

  • Demolition of Deutsche, once again, is about to begin … The Deutsche Bank building could finally begin shrinking next week, when the demolition of the skyscraper across from the World Trade Center site is scheduled to resume. “Hopefully we’re beginning the final phase of removing this blight from our community,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday, at a meeting of his taskforce on the building. The 26-story tower at 130 Liberty St. is now cleaned of 9/11 dust, so contractors have stopped monitoring the air nearby for asbestos and other toxic materials. They will continue monitoring silica and particulate matter whenever work is happening in the building. Assuming it takes a week to demolish each floor, the building could come down as soon as May. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the federally-funded public authority that owns the building, has not given a schedule. The cost of cleaning and demolishing the building has ballooned to about $200 million as the L.M.D.C. contended with many delays, including eight months of work stoppage after the August 2007 fire in the building that killed two firefighters and sparked a 16-month investigation by the District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Morgenthau ultimately indicted one construction supervisor with contractor Bovis Lend Lease and two with subcontractor John Galt Corp., and he indicted Galt as well. Bovis and the city admitted oversight failures leading up to the fire but were not charged. While Galt is now off the job, replaced by LVI/Mazzocchi Wrecking Inc., Bovis is still overseeing the work. … “There’s a good chance this site could be vacant and fenced off for a number of years,” said Adam Banha, a manager with Masterworks Development Corp., which is building a hotel at 130 Cedar St. nearby. “The owners around that site would strongly like to have…some sort of pedestrian use or a community park.” Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee, agreed with Banha at Silver’s taskforce meeting. “There’s enough stalled construction sites in our community,” she said. “We need to make sure it’s not just another deserted lot.” David Emil, L.M.D.C. president, agreed that the L.M.D.C. needed to find an interim use for the site. “Right now I don’t know what the answer to that is,” Emil said. “Sadly it’s months off, not days off.” “But not a year off,” Hughes interjected. Emil paused, then said, “That remains to be seen.” (Downtown Express, October 30 – November 6, 2009)
  • Buildings Dept. Woes Have Persisted Despite Bloomberg’s Overhaul … Indeed, in May 2007, almost 18 months into Mr. Bloomberg’s second term, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board saw fit to bestow an integrity award upon the agency, once branded as the city’s most corrupt. Just three months after the award ceremony, though, a series of failures and scandals began to unfold. The fatal fire in August 2007 at the former Deutsche Bank building, resulted in a criminal investigation that quickly disclosed a raft of failures by the building agency’s inspectors and their supervisors. Along with errors and oversights by the Fire Department, the agency’s conduct nearly led to criminal negligence charges being lodged against the city itself. … Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, whose office brought the case and investigated the Deutsche Bank fire and the crane collapses, underscored the vulnerability of the department when he said the crime family had “actually sought to place associates in a government agency and influence the routine functions of that agency.” … (NYTimes, by William K. Rashbaum, Oct. 31, 2009)
  • Barrett: Bill Thompson Responds To Our Allegations, Sort Of … The memo is, as Castell advertised, a three-page denunciation “of a widespread failure of leadership and accountability” by the Bloomberg administration, and does name Bovis as a prime culprit. While the memo proves Thompson wasn’t silent about Bovis or the fire, it compounds Thompson’s problems about both. It points out that Morgenthau concluded that Bovis prepared “fraudulent” daily checklists that failed to record the breach in the standpipe that contributed to the deaths of the firefighters, as well as “numerous fires and accidents that occurred prior to the August 2007 fire. It adds that Bovis removed a site superintendent who insisted that the deadly standpipe be pressure-tested. It blasted the Bloomberg administration for supporting four increases in the Bovis contract and deplores Bloomberg’s statements in support of the company “even after the fire.” It notes that Bovis is currently under investigation for overbilling the city and that one of its key projects, Citi Field, “is already falling apart after less than a season.” Doesn’t all that make it even odder that McCabe’s Museum for African Art just signed up such a reprehensible contractor to build her 5th Avenue extravaganza? Thompson and McCabe live just a few blocks from the museum site; is it possible that Thompson never noticed the Bovis signs all over the site, including a large one that claims the company is “Incident and Injury Free?” Why is he blasting Bloomberg for supporting Bovis “even after the fire” when his wife hired them “even after the fire?” … The existence of this missed memo (no one reported a word about it) does prove that Thompson didn’t take a pass on Bovis. But it also raises stupefying questions about the disconnect between his public pronouncements and what his wife is doing at a project that he is so personally involved with that he pressed public officials to dump money into it. …. Joe Graffagnino says: …. Even after the murder of these two firefighters the cover ups and political protection was escalated even higher. The State of NY, being partnered with the City of NY in ownership of the Deustche Bank did nothing to try and reign in their buracratic incompetence. The politicians spread their blanket of immunity to LMDC and its person in charge Avi Sheck, to the various city agencies, not limited to FDNY, DOB, and EPA. Yet they use tax payers money to hire a top legal firm to represent any city worker in this case, to the tune of well over $6 million dollars. The Mayors office goes even further to protect their friends by arm twisting the DA’s office not to indict the City agencies and Bovis on the promise that they will be better next time. Yet its OK to cast out the subcontractors, after all someone must be held liable. … Please take notice that it took a VP of Bovis to blow the whistle on their corruption. The whistle blower was a former Federal agent for the IRS hired to keep them honest. He had to go to the corp. HDQ in Australia before someone would start an investigation. If it wasn’t for the Brooklyn DA and the FBI an investigation would have never started. I’m not saying that everyone in Bovis is corrupt, but it sure seems that there is allot of upper management that require remedial training on what is legal and what is criminal. … (Village Voice, by Wayne Barrett, Oct. 31, 2009)
  • Builder Blamed In Firefighter Deaths Is Building Bill Thompson’s Wife’s Museum … Bovis Lend Lease, the contractor whose admitted failings contributed to the deaths of two firefighters at the Deutsche Bank fire in 2007, is building the $180 million museum and condo project on Fifth Avenue spearheaded by Elsie McCabe, the wife of mayoral candidate and Comptroller Bill Thompson. When the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) endorsed Thompson last month, its president, Steve Cassidy, repeatedly cited the “egregious” mishandling of the takedown of the Deutsche bank building as the prime rationale for the endorsement. As the construction manager of the job, Bovis, one of whose employees faces negligent homicide charges in the bank fire case, began doing preliminary work on McCabe’s Museum for African Art project four months after the tragedy. By then, Bovis’ role in the unsafe management of the Deutsche Bank deconstruction had already been highlighted in news accounts. Park View Fifth Avenue Associates, a partnership of the museum and the developers building a companion 115-unit luxury condo project signed the construction contract with Bovis in October 2008, according to Rod O’Connor, an executive with Brickman Associates, the lead developer. When the contract was signed, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau was actively considering indicting the city and the company in the death of firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, a fact that was widely reported. In December, Morgenthau indicted Bovis’ site safety manager but not the company itself, though his statement said the office had “determined that it could institute a criminal prosecution” against Bovis, but didn’t because an indictment could bankrupt the construction giant, which employs thousands. I have tried repeatedly to get a statement from Bill Thompson about the construction of his wife’s museum to no avail. He’s also been reluctant to talk about Bovis and Deutsche Bank fire. I can’t say for certain that he’s avoiding these issues because Bovis is building his wife’s museum. But the guys at the UFA, who do care about dead firefighters, can’t be too pleased with the news. We reported earlier that the DA found that Bovis had filed “fraudulent” daily checklists that failed to report the breach in the standpipe that made it impossible to get water onto the bank fire, as well as covered up numerous other fires and incidents that occurred prior to August catastrophe. Bovis also hired a mob-tied subcontractor with a foul safety record to do much of the demolition over the objections of investigators, and two of the subcontractor’s top employees were also indicted for murder, as was the company itself. Morgenthau uncovered a safety consultant report filed just weeks before the deadly fire that concluded that Bovis “could no longer be trusted to ensure building safety” and that the project was an “accident waiting to happen.” At the same time that McCabe and her partners were signing up with Bovis, the Bloomberg administration was cutting them loose. The company built Bloomberg L.P.’s Lexington Avenue headquarters during the mayor’s first term and was seen as the mayor’s favorite builder prior to the fire, profiting from what one city official says was “a special relationship.” After it, Bovis lost major contracts with the Economic Development, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and the School Construction Authority. The Times reported in September that the city was giving it no new work. Morgenthau and federal prosecutors are continuing to investigate allegations of overbilling and bribery against Bovis on several city jobs, another reason why the city has pulled much of its business. Ironically, one of the chief functions of a comptroller is to review claims filed by construction firms like Bovis to ensure that they are not overbilling the city. …. (Village Voice, by Wayne Barrett, Oct. 30 2009)
  • 100 rally at Ground Zero in support of health care bill for first responders … Retired NY Firefighter, Kenny Specht, is flanked by Representatives Nadler, D-NY, (l.), and Maloney, D-NY, at a news conference in support of HR 847. First responders rallied at Ground Zero on Saturday, urging Congress to pass a health care bill for workers who became sick inhaling toxic dust on 9/11. At least 100 people waved banners and American flags to show their support for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named after an NYPD detective whose death was attributed to post-9/11 ailments. … (NYDaily News, Jake Pearson and Christina Boyle, October 25th 2009)

SEPTEMBER

AUGUST

  • 9/11 Rescue Workers’ Cancer Link Probed: Small Number of Young Law Officers From World Trade Center Aftermath Develop Immune System Cancer … Researchers say a small number of young law enforcement officers who participated in the World Trade Center rescue and cleanup operation have developed an immune system cancer. The numbers are tiny, and experts don’t know whether there is any link between the illnesses and toxins released during the disaster. But doctors who coordinated the study, published Monday in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, said people who worked at the site should continue to have their health monitored. “What we are trying to get out there is: Be alert,” said Dr. Jacqueline M. Moline, director of the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The researchers looked at 28,252 emergency responders who spent time amid ground zero dust and found eight cases of multiple myeloma. Those findings were no surprise. Multiple myeloma is the second most common hematological cancer in the U.S. after non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Normally, researchers would expect to find about seven cases in a group as large as the one examined in the study. However, four of the people who fell ill were under age 45, and multiple myeloma is thought to be more rare among people of that age. Under normal circumstances, researchers would have expected to find only one case of the disease in that age group.Those four young multiple myeloma patients included one officer who was caught in the dust cloud on 9/11 and then spent months working long hours at the site. Another spent 111 days at the Staten Island landfill where the rubble was sifted. Two others had less exposure, working 12 and 14 days each in the pit and rubble pile.The study said it is possible the monitoring program was simply more effective at finding the illness among people who wouldn’t ordinarily be subjected to intense medical tracking. Nevertheless, Moline said, “You shouldn’t be seeing so many cases of myeloma in younger folks.” The median age of diagnosis for that cancer in the general public is 71. Several groups are studying New Yorkers exposed to toxic dust when the skyscrapers collapsed. To date, no study, including the one published Monday, has established a link between that dust and cancer, said Lorna Thorpe, a deputy commissioner and epidemiologist at New York City’s health department. The timing of the four cases examined by the team at Mount Sinai also raised questions about whether they are related to their work at ground zero, she said. Most research on multiple myeloma indicates that it usually takes 10 to 20 years for someone to develop that cancer after an environmental exposure to a carcinogen. In these cases, the cancers were diagnosed in as little as three to four years after the attacks, suggesting that something else caused the disease. (CBS/AP, Aug. 10, 2009)
  • DEUTSCHE RAZING $TALLS WTC RAISING … Continuing delays in the deadly task of taking down the Deutsche Bank tower at Ground Zero have driven up the cost of rebuilding the World Trade Center by an estimated $100 million, sources familiar with the two projects told The Post. The former 42-story bank tower, heavily damaged by the toppled Twin Towers on 9/11 and filled with toxins, will take nearly three years longer than originally planned to clean and remove. It’s now slated to be done sometime next spring. While the building does not sit in the trade center site, its property is slated to be the location for key infrastructure, including a vehicle screening center, that must be in place in order to finish the office towers and transit hub. The Port Authority recently allocated an extra $6.5 million to build a temporary wall next to the building so that some work could begin before the entire tower is removed, hopefully speeding up some of the crucial construction. But sources said most of the added costs at the trade center site come from escalating construction costs over the three years between the original completion date of late 2007 to the latest mid-2010 timeframe. A spokesman for the PA, which is in charge of rebuilding the trade center, declined comment. (NYPost, by Tom Topousis, August 10, 2009)
  • Ground Zero first responder John McNamara also aided Katrina victims,dies of cancer … FDNY firefighter John McNamara, who worked at Ground Zero and later helped victims of Hurricane Katrina, died Sunday of colon cancer. An FDNY veteran who worked tirelessly at Ground Zero and pushed for better health benefits for first responders died Sunday after a battle with cancer. John McNamara, 44, spent 10 years with the FDNY and was diagnosed with colon cancer in the aftermath of his time at Ground Zero. McNamara spent about 500 hours looking for his fallen brethren at the site where the World Trade Center once stood, and his plight was part of a documentary called “Save the Brave,” which chronicled the lives of ailing rescue workers. McNamara, who was assigned to Ladder 123 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, also joined the FDNY’s rescue mission to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He became ill in June 2006 and the cancer spread to his liver and stomach. … (NYDaily News, by Jonathan Lemire, August 10, 2009)
  • WTC Responders Appear to Have Elevated Risks of Rare Cancers … Multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, usually affects people aged 60 and above. But researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine are reporting what they call an “unusual” number of World Trade responders developing this type of cancer at much younger ages. “What we’re seeing is, we have four cases under [age] 45. We would only expect one based on the size of our population,” said Dr. Jacqueline Moline, the director of Mount Sinai’s World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program. In addition to those cases, four others have been confirmed and researchers are also in the process of investigating eight more. That would bring the tally to 16 in a pool of about 30,000 responders participating in the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program. While 16 may seem like a small number, the average national rate for myeloma is only about four cases per 100,000 for all age ranges. One September 11th responder, 42-year-old Alex Sanchez, worked 12- to 14-hour days, seven days a week for six months cleaning dust out of air vents in surrounding skyscrapers following the September 11th attacks. His health hasn’t been the same since and worries he’s at risk. “We were just given a paper mask and gloves and goggles. Literally I was inside these ventilators, but it did not occur at the time that I was very much endangering my health,” says Sanchez. Rescue and recovery workers like Sanchez were exposed to a wide range of toxic chemicals, including benzene and other carcinogens already linked to blood cancers. But Moline says it is still too soon to say the exposures caused the cancers they are seeing. “We’re just not in a position now to be able to give definite answers,” says Moline. “What we want to make sure, though, is that people are on the lookout, monitoring patients going froward, and saying ‘Something doesn’t seem right. Why is this responder ill? Why do they have this, these symptoms? And could it be a disease that I normally wouldn’t anticipate in someone who is younger, but I can’t rule it out?'” Eight years following the attacks, doctors and researchers involved in the program say one thing their findings do shore up is the need for continued monitoring as more unexpected health patterns among responders come to the surface. (NY1, by Kafi Drexel, 08/08/2009)
  • Deutsche demo’s pricetag inches up even higher … The long-delayed Deutsche Bank demolition got a little bit more expensive this week, as the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. approved another $2.5 million for the project. That’s just a fraction of the roughly $280 million previously allocated to buy, clean and demolish the building, and it won’t be the last time the L.M.D.C. needs more money. The project’s price tag could rise by another $30 million before it’s done. The newly allocated $2.5 million may help pay for the project’s rising legal costs. At a meeting Tuesday, the L.M.D.C. board approved an additional $130,000 for photocopying and document management, bringing the total for that purpose to $850,000. The board also approved a $700,000 increase to a contract with the law firm Dechert L.L.P., bringing Dechert’s compensation to a total of $8 million. The L.M.D.C. has faced the scrutiny of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau since the August 2007 fire in the building that killed two firefighters. The legal fees are associated with the fire and the conduct of the contractors the L.M.D.C. hired for the job. The $2.5 million allocation comes from federal grant money designated for the south side of the World Trade Center site, where the Deutsche Bank building sits. The $2.5 million is all that is left of that grant, which originally totaled $63 million, said Avi Schick, chairperson of the L.M.D.C. The new allocation will give the Deutsche Bank project enough cash to get through at least the end of November, but then the L.M.D.C. will need more money. The L.M.D.C. hopes to draw from the building’s prior insurers, who have already given $63.5 million, and from contractor Bovis Lend Lease, who may be found to be liable for some of the project’s delays, including the 2007 fire. If money from Bovis and the prior insurers is not forthcoming, the L.M.D.C. may try to use its federal funds instead and seek reimbursement later. The L.M.D.C., which owns the 26-story Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St., is currently cleaning it of 9/11 contaminants so it can be demolished. The cleaning is nearly complete, but demolition will not begin until after Labor Day because Bovis has not finished its final plans and submitted them to the city Buildings Dept. Once the cleaning work finishes, “There will be a period of time now where there is just some mobilization going on,” Schick said at the L.M.D.C.’s board meeting Tuesday. John De Libero, L.M.D.C. spokesperson, said demolition would take about six months, although L.M.D.C. President David Emil said last week that it was premature to give a timetable. If De Libero’s timeline is correct, the building could be down as soon as early March 2010. (Downtown Express, by Julie Shapiro, August 7 – 13, 2009)
  • Chronic Need -New Health Study Proves Again That 9/11 Victims Need Feds’ Help …Hard on the heels of a House Judiciary Committee vote to reopen the 9/11 victims’ compensation fund, a new study shows yet again why Washington must come to the aid of the forgotten victims of the terror attack. The survey of participants in the city’s World Trade Center Health Registry found that thousands of sick people are not getting better – and, in fact, some have gotten worse. Asthma rates among those who breathed in the toxic dust are far higher than among asthmatics who were diagnosed before the attack. More than half the Trade Center victims surveyed in 2007 and 2008 reported experiencing wheezing, shortness of breath or a persistent cough in the previous 30 days. People exposed to the horrors downtown were also found to be four times more likely than other people to have post-traumatic stress – and more reported having symptoms in 2008 than did in 2003-04. Even eight years later, New Yorkers still bear the scars of that awful day. Congress must come through with health care and compensation funds to spare thousands of the sick from costly, unnecessary court fights to get the help they so justly deserve.
  • American Medical Association study: Adults near WTC disaster still being diagnosed with asthma, PTSD … Adults who worked, lived or just walked near the World Trade Center disaster are still being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress symptoms and asthma almost eight years after the tragedy, a new study reveals. … “We were concerned and surprised by the sustained elevation in the \[stress\] symptoms and that some people actually worsened,” said Lorna Thorpe, the city Health Department’s deputy commissioner of epidemiology.A disturbing 10% of survey participants said they have been diagnosed with asthma, with rescue and recovery workers having the highest rates. But Thorpe said the number of participants reporting new symptoms of asthma was not increasing, meaning new cases are not developing as a result of the disaster. Based on these results, researchers believe roughly 61,000 exposed adults could be experiencing post-traumatic symptoms and another 25,000 adults could have asthma. … (NYDaily News, by Carrie Melago, August 4, 2009)
  • Study Finds Post-Traumatic Stress From 9/11 Increasing … The number of people who have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being directly exposed to the World Trade Center attacks has increased over time, according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, based on a survey of 50,000 people conducted five to six years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Overall, 19 percent of those surveyed in 2006-7 said they had developed post-traumatic stress symptoms in the five to six years after the attack, up from 14 percent in the first survey done of the group, two to three years after the attack. The increase was seen across the board — in rescue workers, office employees, residents and passers-by — but the sharpest jump was reported in the rescue workers. The 19 percent overall rate in the second survey is roughly four times the rate of post-traumatic stress syndrome typically seen among American adults. Of the 19 percent, 9.5 percent had not reported symptoms in the earlier survey. The study, “Asthma and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms 5 to 6 Years Following Exposure to the World Trade Center Terrorist Attack,” is one of the longest-running studies of post-traumatic stress in civilians. “There are very few studies that have looked at one-time major disaster and looked at the course of mental health over time,” said Dr. Lorna E. Thorpe, a deputy New York City health commissioner who was the senior writer of the study. The research is a collaboration between the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most studies of civilians disasters — mass shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina, for example — end at three years, but studies of combat veterans do continue longer, Dr. Thorpe said. Even though military combat is a different experience from one-time disasters, “Our findings are very consistent with combat veterans,” she said. Stress symptoms may increase over time because repercussions from the original event — such as job loss or health problems — may add to the strain, she said. The interviews — drawing on a total registry of more than 71,000 people affected by the attacks — were done by phone, mail and e-mail in 2006 and 2007. The earlier survey was done in 2003 and 2004. The participants were not asked if they had been given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress syndrome, but were asked specific questions about mental and physical health used to evaluate post-traumatic stress. “It’s very close to a diagnosis. It correlates with a diagnosis,” Dr. Thorpe said. The survey found that while the number of diagnosed cases of asthma had increased since the last survey, the people reporting underlying symptoms had not, suggesting that the rate of asthma cases has leveled out. As of the last survey, 10.2 percent of people and 20.5 percent of rescue and recovery workers reported a diagnosis of asthma since the attacks. Earlier studies showed that those near the World Trade Center were twice as likely to develop asthma as the general population. Of people with no previous history of post-traumatic stress, 23.8 percent reported symptoms in at least one of the two studies. In the new study, 16.3 percent of surveyed residents and 19.1 of surveyed office workers reported symptoms; both figures were about 3 percentage points higher than in the previous survey. In contrast, rescue workers, as a group, saw post-traumatic stress jump to 19.5 percent from 12.1 percent in the earlier survey. However, the highest rate, 23.2 percent, was reported by passers-by, which researchers considered a bit mysterious. They offered a variety of potential explanations. One possibility is that unlike office workers or rescue responders, passers-by were much harder to find because there were no systematic lists to track them. “They weren’t part of a constituency that were easily reached with services and care,” Dr. Thorpe said. Therefore, they may have less of a support network, increasing stress. In addition, it was harder for researchers to create an exhaustive list of passers-by, so there might be bias in those who chose to participate. “Some of it might be self-selection,” Dr. Thorpe said. The increasing incidence of post-traumatic stress symptoms continues to raise concern at the city’s health department. “This really helps us,” Dr. Thorpe said, adding that it “tells us we are still responding to 9/11.”(NY TIMES City Room Blog, Jennifer 8. Lee, August 4, 2009)
  • Construx Sites Still Smokin’ … New York construction sites are smokin’ hot — and that’s bad. A nearly yearlong crackdown on smoking at construction sites around the city by the Buildings Department has resulted in almost 1,000 violations being issued and $1.8 million in fines, The Post has learned. The butt blitz — the first time the department has cited contractors for smoking violations — began last Sept. 6. It was spurred by the 2007 deaths of two firefighters in a cigarette-sparked blaze at the troubled Deutsche Bank demolition site near Ground Zero. “It’s a disgrace that people continue to smoke on construction sites,” said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “Smoking is prohibited on construction sites for a reason — because it puts lives at serious risk.” “Our inspectors will continue to enforce the smoking ban because the industry has got to change.” As of last Wednesday, LiMandri’s inspectors had issued 932 violations — with initial fines ranging from $1,200 to $2,400 per violation — for smoking observed at a building site, the presence of cigarette or cigar butts, or failure to post required no-smoking signs. The most-cited site — with nine smoking-related violations — was the ongoing construction of the 57-story W hotel/condo building at 123 Washington St. That’s right across the street from the Deutsche Bank site, where firefighters Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia were killed on April 18, 2007. The Post recently was told that FDNY officials suspect that a cigar butt found at the Deutsche Bank site at 130 Liberty St. on June 10 — which led to a violation being issued to the contractor, Bovis — actually fell or was tossed from the W site. The W is being built by Tishman Construction, which has been cited for three other smoking violations at other sites in New York, making it the top offender. Company spokesman John Gallagher said, “Tishman strictly enforces smoking regulations on all job sites. Anyone caught violating these regulations will be terminated.” (NYPost, by Dan Mangan, August 3, 2009)

JULY

  • 9/11 Responder Program in Limbo … The only evaluation and treatment program in Queens for 9/11 responders is in jeopardy of closing if the federal government does not allocate funds soon. “There is no new money for the program and its continuation is based on passage of the Zadroga bill,” said Lauri Boni, administrative director of the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program Queens Clinical Center in Flushing. “We are in a holding pattern and will close without the money.” The Flushing center is part of a consortium of five clinics in Manhattan, Staten Island, the Hudson Valley, Long Island and New Jersey. They are all awaiting passage of the federal bill named after a city police detective, James Zadroga, who died in 2006 at the age of 34 due to respiratory problems. He worked an estimated 450 hours at Ground Zero as part of the recovery and cleanup efforts following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The bill would provide $12 billion over a 10-year period to guarantee testing and care of 9/11 emergency responders and would reopen the victims compensation fund. The Flushing center operates on $2.5 million a year. Located at 163-03 Horace Harding Expressway, the facility is run by Queens College’s Center for the Biology of Natural Systems. The center began providing health monitoring exams for more than 1,000 Ground Zero workers in 2002. Four years later, the facility received federal money to evaluate and treat 9/11 workers, police officers and other first responders to the World Trade Center area. The Fire Department has its own program. What these workers didn’t realize was the toxic fumes and dust they inhaled at the scene would make them sick later, according to Dr. Wajdy L. Hailoo, medical director of the Flushing monitoring and treatment program. “These are very sick people suffering from a variety of chronic conditions,” Hailoo said. Although the health conditions vary, the center has seen patients suffering from throat and sinus problems and acid reflux to mental health issues, but mostly lung and upper airway problems. Asthma is particularly high among the first responders. The facility has seen 3,000 patients, with 20 percent treated actively. That’s about 600 people up to six times a year. Most are from Queens or Brooklyn. …(Queens Chronicle, by Liz Rhoades, 07/30/09)

JUNE

MAY

APRIL

MARCH

FEBRUARY

  • Delays Continue at the Former Deutsche Bank Building … Limited decontamination work resumed at the former Deutsche Bank building, a day after contractors accidentally cut a 5-foot section of the standpipe. A spokesman for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which owns the building, says the section of standpipe was not painted red. That may have made it hard for workers to notice it was part of the building’s fire safety system. But it also raises parallels to the deadly fire at the building in 2007. Firefighters found it hard to fight the blaze because a different section of the building’s standpipe had been removed entirely. Since then, contractors were supposed to paint the entire standpipe red. The spokesman, Mike Murphy, would not comment on what penalties contractors might face until the investigation is complete. He said that other precautions put into place, such as an air pressure alarm attached to the standpipe, worked this time, which is why the breach was detected. (WNYC, by Matthew Schuerman, February 06, 2009)

JANUARY

  • Medical Examiner Rules Lung Disease Victim a 9/11 Death – Leon Heyward, a 9/11 death … Leon Heyward was within spitting distance of the twin towers when they went down on 9/11. Rather than run, he left his rubble-strewn car and hustled to the Department of Consumer Affairs office on Church St., where he worked as an investigator and helped get handicapped co-workers out. Time passed, then the 45-year-old father of two got sick. He had trouble breathing, became delusional and suffered memory losses. On Oct. 13, seven years after that horrible day, Heyward died. Friday, the city medical examiner said he died of cancer he got from breathing in toxic dust at Ground Zero. … (NY Daily News, by Joe Kemp & Leo Standora, Jan. 17, 2009)
  • NYC adds man’s cancer death to 9/11 victims’ toll … A man who died of lymphoma and lung disease more than seven years after he was exposed to toxic dust from the World Trade Center collapse was added to the Sept. 11 death toll, the New York City medical examiner said Friday.Leon Heyward, 45, died Oct. 13 of lymphoma that was complicated by the lung disease sarcoidosis and the use of the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide, the medical examiner’s office said. Deaths may be reclassified when “people die of disease that is caused by exposure to the dust that occurred in the time of the collapse,” Borakove said. Chief medical examiner Charles Hirsch listed Heyward’s death as a homicide. The family did not formally request to add Heyward to the Sept. 11 death toll, Borakove said. Hirsch last added the illness death of Felicia Dunn-Jones to the official toll in 2007 after her family made the request several times, but he has declined to make similar rulings in half a dozen other cases. Dunn-Jones, a 42-year-old civil rights attorney, was caught in the dust cloud that enveloped lower Manhattan on the day of the attacks. Medical experts researching the severity of post-Sept. 11 illness have said the risk of exposure was greatest on the day of the attacks, although thousands of people have said they developed respiratory illness, cancer and other ailments from breathing in fumes during the nine-month cleanup. Dunn-Jones developed a persistent cough shortly after Sept. 11 and died in February 2002. Hirsch cited research that showed a link between sarcoidosis and ground zero dust exposure and said that Dunn-Jones’ exposure contributed to her disease. … (AP, 1/16,/09)
  • Sept. 11 Death Toll Rises by One, to 2,752 … Leon Bernard Heyward did not die until last October, at the age of 45. But his name was added Friday to the official list of people who died as a result of the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. That brings the death toll to 2,752. The accounting is kept by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which said that Mr. Heyward was counted as a casualty “due to exposure to World Trade Center dust following collapse of the World Trade Center.” The issue of how to treat and compensate those who were exposed to the dust — particularly rescue workers — has proved to be one of the most vexing problems of the aftermath. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner said she had no information on what Mr. Heyward was doing at the towers that morning. The cause of his death was given as lymphoma, complicating sarcoidosis, a lung disease. The manner of death was listed as homicide. (NYTimes Blog, by David W. Dunlap, 01/16/09)
  • Council Grills Deutsche Contractors and Officials … The Department of Buildings inspectors who failed to uncover unsafe conditions in the Deutsche Bank building prior to the fatal 2007 fire are still on the job. Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau called the Buildings inspectors “inexperienced” in his recent report on the deaths of two firefighters in the contaminated tower. The Buildings inspectors never donned the protective gear they would have needed to find the many safety violations in the building, including a 42-foot gap in the standpipe, which left firefighters without water during the fire. Despite these shortfalls, the D.O.B. said Friday that the current inspectors are “substantially the same” as those who were supposed to be inspecting the tower at the time of the fire. They have since received 30 hours of federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration training and 40 hours of site safety training, said Christopher Santulli, Manhattan borough commissioner for the D.O.B. “The current training is project-specific and is much more significant than what we had prior to the fire,” Santulli said. Santulli did not say Friday why the department kept the inspectors rather than replacing them. The revelation about the Buildings inspectors came during a hearing City Councilmember Alan Gerson held last Friday on the past and future of the Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St., which is currently being cleaned so it can be demolished. Gerson had sharp words for many of the witnesses at the hearing, including David Emil, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which owns the building across from the World Trade Center site. Gerson pressed Emil on the culture of unsafe behavior at the site before the fire and asked whether that had changed. Emil would not directly answer the question, and Gerson got frustrated, saying, “We’re not going to solve the problem if we can’t agree there was a problem.” Even when Gerson grilled Emil on the many missteps that preceded the fatal fire, including nine smaller fires that ought to have raised red flags, Emil said little. For example, several weeks before the final fire, URS Corp., the L.M.D.C.’s representative on the site, told the L.M.D.C. that the contractor, Bovis Lend Lease, could not be trusted to keep the building safe, according to the D.A. At Friday’s hearing, Gerson asked Emil if URS was right about Bovis. “I’m not sure we’re going to offer a comment on our opinion at that time,” Emil said after a lengthy silence. “I think we have learned from the past and made changes,” he said, referring to the more robust safety plans put in place after the fire. After the hearing, Emil declined to say whether the L.M.D.C. had done everything it could have done to prevent the fire. … That team still includes one group affiliated with John Galt Corp., the former project subcontractor charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the 2007 fire. Regional Scaffolding and Hoisting, which shares employees with Galt, is still working at the site. After the City Council hearing, L.M.D.C. spokesperson Mike Murphy said Regional installed the building’s scaffolding but the workers are not on the site on a regular basis.The L.M.D.C. vets all the subcontractors Bovis hires, and the L.M.D.C. would not approve anyone with ties to Galt, Emil said. The hearing’s many witnesses listed safety improvements to the building since the fire, including a standpipe alarm that detects any breaches. Cas Holloway, chief of staff to Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler, announced a $24 million contract with I.B.M. to create a database of buildings that will help the F.D.N.Y. prioritize their inspections. The city is also cross-training their inspectors, so workers from the Department of Environmental Protection, for example, will also have F.D.N.Y. and Buildings Department training. … (Downtown Express, by Shapiro, January 16 – 22, 2009)
  • Bloomberg: Rezone Flatbush, Build Green, Disband LMDC … Mayor Bloomberg, according to his prepared remarks (PDF) for his annual State of the City this afternoon, is calling for a laundry list of government initiatives meant to bolster the local economy and create jobs. … One layer of bureaucracy that should definitely be put out to pasture, incidentally, is the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. This year, we’ll continue pushing the Port Authority to keep the Freedom Tower, memorial, and the rest of the site on schedule – but we don’t need the LMDC to do it. The LMDC should be folded into our Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center so that work at the site can progress more smoothly and taxpayers can save money …. We’ve heard the call for the LMDC disbandment before, but the mayor hadn’t before said it should become part of the LMCCC, an LMDC subsidiary of sorts that is run jointly by the city and state.(NY Observer, by Eliot Brown, 01/15/09)
  • Contractor Refuses to Discuss Cause of Fatal Bank Tower Fire … A principal of the contractor handling the dismantling of the former Deutsche Bank building told a City Council hearing Friday that he would not answer any questions about what led to a fatal fire there, prompting a testy exchange with a councilman. The official, James Abadie of Bovis Lend Lease, citing an inquiry by prosecutors, said, “We cannot and will not discuss any matter related to events leading up to the Aug. 17, 2007, fire, including any former and current investigations conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.” The remark came at the start of a hearing convened by the Council’s Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment to explore mistakes before the fire and examine changes in procedures. Mr. Abadie’s announcement drew a sharp response from the committee chairman, Alan J. Gerson, who said safety practices before and after the fire should be discussed. Mr. Abadie replied, “I’ve been told by my legal counsel that we’ve been asked by the district attorney’s office not to comment publicly about anything prior to the fire.” Mr. Gerson challenged that assertion. “We have been in touch with the district attorney’s office, and I can assure you that’s not the case,” he said. “We will be posing those questions.” It could not be determined on Friday what instructions, if any, the district attorney’s office had given to Bovis. Alicia Maxey Greene, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, said only that the office would look into the matter. …. In December, three construction supervisors — one for Bovis and two for a subcontractor, the John Galt Corporation — were indicted on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Galt was also indicted, but Mr. Morgenthau did not pursue an indictment against Bovis.
  • (NYTimes, by Colin Moynihan, Jan. 10, 2009)
  • IT’S DEUTSCHE BUNK – LMDC DELAYS RAZING DESPITE PROMISES … THE ruined former Deutsche Bank build ing near Ground Zero will live to see another mournful season in the sun. The state-controlled Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has pushed back the years-behind-schedule takedown of the toxic hulk until almost the end of the year – at least three months later than its most recent projection, which called for it to be down by summer. The world’s most useless “development” agency now expects the job to be finished in “fall 2009,” according to a “monthly progress report” on the cleanup and demolition of 130 Liberty St. that has been quietly added to the LMDC Web site. Last August, LMDC officials told The Post they hoped “to have the building completely down by summer 2009.” Since LMDC timetables are less reliable than those of Swiss railways, don’t bet on the job being done before 2010. … (NY Post, by Steve Cuozzo, 12/10/09)
  • Deutsche Contractor Indicted For Grand Larceny … To the list of charges levied against John Galt Corp. workers since the fatal fire at the Deutsche Bank building, the district attorney added a new one this week: grand larceny. Robert Chiarappa, 45, Galt’s former purchasing agent, is accused of stealing $1.2 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which owns the building, and Arch Insurance Group, Galt’s bonding company. Chiarappa told the project’s vendors to submit false invoices for unnecessary supplies, like gloves, plastic sheeting and protective gear, according to prosecutors. Then, once Chiarappa approved the payments to the vendors and they got paid, the vendors are accused of giving Chiarappa cash and jewelry, leasing him three luxury cars, including a Mercedes and a BMW, and paying for his vacation to Turks and Caicos Islands, according to the D.A. “He had expensive taste,” Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau said. Chiarappa’s indictment comes two weeks after Morgenthau announced a slew of more serious charges against Galt, the subcontractor hired to clean and demolish the Deutsche Bank building. The D.A. charged Galt with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the August 2007 death of two firefighters in a blaze at the contaminated building. Galt executives knew about a gap in the building’s standpipe that left firefighters without water on the day of the fire, but hid it rather than fixing it. Galt is a reincarnation of Safeway Environmental Corp., sharing many of the same employees, including Chiarappa, and both companies have mob ties, according to the D.A. “This indictment drives home the point that D.O.I. has been making for years, that integrity and safety go hand-in-hand,” Rose Gill Hearn, the Dept. of Investigation’s commissioner, said during Tuesday’s press conference announcing the indictments. The city D.O.I. warned the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, a subsidiary of the L.M.D.C., that it was a mistake to allow contractor Bovis Lend Lease to hire Galt in 2006. The construction center’s responsibilities include preventing fraud in large projects Downtown. Mike Murphy, spokesperson for the L.M.D.C., declined to comment on the decision to hire Galt. Deb Wetzel, spokesperson for the L.M.C.C.C., said her agency was not involved in that decision. “We couldn’t have been more unequivocal in saying that John Galt should not be hired,” said Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1. “We were not listened to…. I’m not at all surprised by the D.A.’s report.” Chiarappa pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four counts of grand larceny in the second degree and two counts of grand larceny in the third degree. He was held on $100,000 bail and faces up to 15 years in prison. His lawyer did not return a call for comment. Asked if Chiarappa’s schemes jeopardized safety at the Deutsche bank building, Morgenthau replied, “Not that we know of.” The Deutsche Bank project had many monitors and auditors, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the L.M.D.C., but it is understandable that none of them caught the fraud, said Daniel Castleman, chief assistant district attorney. “Audits are only as good as the documents you look at,” Castleman said. “If you have the ability to go behind the documents, you can find this kind of fraud.” The L.M.D.C. and Arch Insurance Group roughly split the $1.2 million loss, Castleman said, and the D.A. will try to make sure both are repaid. Chiarappa’s theft likely exceeded $1.2 million, because he may have padded legitimate invoices in addition to creating entirely fabricated ones, Castleman said. The L.M.D.C. released a statement thanking the D.A. for undertaking the investigation, but the agency may not technically have lost the money at all. As on all of its contracts, the L.M.D.C. withheld a percentage of the payments, pending a post-project audit. The amount the L.M.D.C. retained was greater than the amount Chiarappa stole. The indictments will likely keep coming, as Morgenthau said Galt is still under investigation and Chiarappa may not have been the only person taking money. Two weeks ago, Castleman said the L.M.D.C. and the construction command center were also among the groups being investigated by a grand jury looking at the Deutsche contracts. The D.A. is also prosecuting the vendors, who are accused of keeping just over half the money from the false invoices, but Morgenthau declined to name them or even say how many were involved. A possible reason that Morgenthau did not name the indicted vendors is that they are cooperating with the investigation. (Downtown Express, by Julie Shapiro, January 9 – 15, 2009)
  • Port Authority To Release Inspection Records … The Port Authority is making its inspection records public in an effort to keep emergency responders safe. After previously agreeing to abide by city fire and building codes, the agency said Thursday that it will now publicize the compliance status of its bridges, tunnels, airport terminals and high rises. The Buildings Department praised the move and officials said the information will help first responders know more about the condition of a structure during an emergency. One advocate for the new transparency is Joseph Graffagnino Senior, whose son died while fighting a fire in the violation-ridden former Deutsche Bank building in 2007. “It’s something that’s got to be done, you don’t want to see someone else’s son or daughter go through the same thing. We all could relate to that,” said Graffagnino. “Public scrutiny of our safety efforts is always valuable regardless of who is in charge. It means alarms are sounded when there is a breakdown in oversight and it means that fewer mistakes will be made.” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said more than 800 buildings in the five boroughs don’t have to follow the city’s fire codes because they are owned by state, federal or foreign governments. (NY1,
  • ARREST IN BANK RAZING … A Gambino-linked construction official was arrested yesterday and charged with stealing as much as $2 million from the Deutsche Bank building demolition – taking kickbacks in the form of cash, jewelry, Caribbean vacations and Mercedes-Benz and BMW luxury cars. Yesterday’s grand-larceny charges against John Galt Corp. official Robert Chiarappa, 45, of Brooklyn, were the first officially revealed fruits of a yearlong probe into mob-influenced corruption at the death- and delay-plagued site. Sources said two project vendors were quietly arrested recently in the ongoing probe into Gambino-family shenanigans at the site, with more indictments to come. The investigation was launched after two firefighters died in a 2007 fire during demolition work on the 9/11-damaged skyscraper. “It’s definitely going to ripple out,” one prober said, declining to guess how many arrests are pending. The mob investigation’s scope was hinted at in something Chiarappa himself told investigators last year, according to court documents: “I wondered when you guys were coming to see me – you were talking to everyone else.” It was in turning over rocks after the deaths of firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino that investigators uncovered Chiarappa’s massive alleged scheme – a purported rip-off of federal Housing and Urban Development funds described by investigators as an invoice-padding racket. Chiarappa was the purchasing agent for Galt, a company hired by the building’s owner, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., despite being run by two former heads of the now-defunct, Gambino-run Safeway Environmental Corp. Chiarappa worked his scheme from at least September 2006 to October 2007, prosecutors said, when the LMDC fired Galt from the $200 million toxin-abatement and deconstruction job two months after the fatal fire. He convinced vendors to submit false and exaggerated invoices for equipment and other materials, then signed off on the invoices, said Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Chiarappa pleaded not guilty yesterday. He faces up to 15 years in prison. (NYPost, by Laura Italiano, Jan. 7, 2009)
  • And Turn Out the Lights Behind You … Ground Zero’s hapless bureaucrat-in-chief is finally on his way out – from one of his jobs, at least. Spitzer appointee Avi Schick steps down this week as Downstate president of the Empire State Development Corp. Now if he’d only do likewise at the useless Lower Manhattan Development Corp. – and lock the door behind him. Schick’s chairmanship of that agency has been particularly lackluster: One of the 19 bureaucracies overseeing Ground Zero, its sole real responsibility has been the deconstruction of the former Deutsche Bank building, which still stands more than seven years after 9/11. And Schick’s done nothing about it: In the 17 months since a fire at the structure killed two firefighters, the project’s been beset by delay after delay. The current estimate is that deconstruction won’t even start until March. Not that that’s entirely his fault: Environmental regulators have hobbled the task from the very beginning. But Schick’s inability to make any headway only points up the uselessness of the LMDC as a whole, which Mayor Bloomberg has already called for scrapping. Now’s as good a time as any. (NYPost, Jan. 7, 2009)
  • $1 Million Theft Charges at Troubled Demolition Project … The former purchasing agent for the subcontractor hired to dismantle the former Deutsche Bank building, which was damaged in the Sept. 11 attack in Lower Manhattan, has been charged with stealing more than $1 million by filing false invoices and using the money for expensive vacations and luxury cars, the authorities said on Tuesday. The agent, Robert Chiarappa, who worked for the John Galt Corporation, approved invoices for supplies that were never delivered, said Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney. He then shared the payments issued by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the joint city and state agency financing the dismantling, with the vendors who had submitted the false invoices, Mr. Morgenthau said at a news conference at his office. Mr. Chiarappa’s scheme also bilked the Arch Insurance Group, Galt’s bonding company, which paid vendors outstanding balances on invoices — some legitimate and some fraudulent — after a deadly fire at the building in August 2007, when Galt was removed from the project, Mr. Morgenthau said. Mr. Morgenthau said his office was pursuing charges against several vendors, but declined to give details. The authorities are still investigating whether others profited from Mr. Chiarappa’s scheme, the district attorney said. … An investigator assigned to review all the payments for supplies and labor at the Deutsche Bank project brought discrepancies to the district attorney’s attention, Mr. Morgenthau said. It took a deeper investigation to unearth the invoicing scheme, a type of fraud that is difficult to detect through a routine audit because the money spent appears to be backed up by documents, Mr. Castleman said. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation gets its financing from the federal government and has spent about $275 million on the Deutsche Bank project. (NYTimes, by John Eligon, Jan. 7, 2009)
  • DA: Galt Employee Stole $1.2 Million From Deutsche Bank Detox … The other companies implicated in the scam were not immediately named. Chiarappa, who is currently unemployed and had been living with his brother in Brooklyn, was charged with four counts of second-degree larceny and two counts of third-degree larceny. According to his attorney, David Wikstrom, Chiarappa had been cooperating with investigators in the aftermath of the 2007 fire, and was first informed of an impending indictment against him at least nine months ago. In an effort to convince Judge A. Kirke Bartley, who presided over Chiarappa’s arraignment, that his client was not a risk to flee the city, Wikstrom said Chiarappa had just arrived at his parents’ house in Florida when he found out he had been indicted, and immediately returned to New York to turn himself in. (Tribeca Trib, by matt Dunning, Jan. 6, 2009)
  • ELIOT’S ECON GURU LEAVING … Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s handpicked economic-development czar, who has overseen projects that wound up mired in delays and cost overruns, is stepping down as president of the Empire State Development Corp. But Avi Schick’s resignation, effective at the end of this week, doesn’t cover his role as chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which has come under fire over the Deutsche Bank deconstruction. ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston said Schick remains chairman of the LMDC and the state’s corporation overseeing the development of Governors Island. (NYPost, by Tom Topousis & Maggie Haberman, Jan. 6, 2009)
  • Avi Schick Leaves ESDC … Avi Schick, the prosecutor-turned-development official who has served as downstate president of the Empire State Development Corporation for the past two years, will leave his job this week. Mr. Schick emailed a letter on Monday evening to colleagues announcing his departure (a copy of the letter is below). Mr. Schick’s departure comes more than seven months after the Paterson administration announced he would resign his position; in May, the state announced he would leave in September. At the ESDC, Mr. Schick, once a top prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office under Eliot Spitzer, oversaw state involvement in projects such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the development of Governors Island, and Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion. He was also known as Governor Spitzer’s man downtown, running the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and attempting to attract and retain large financial firms including JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Schick was involved in getting the bank to agree to build a new tower by the World Trade Center site, a nonbinding commitment that seems highly unlikely to happen at this point. He pushed—ultimately successfully—for candor with dates and deadlines at the World Trade Center, and he also has overseen the deconstruction of the Deutsche Bank building by ground zero following a fatal fire in the summer of 2007, a demolition that has taken far longer than expected. Particularly during the Spitzer administration, Mr. Schick showed a tendency to spar with other officials, bringing a prosecutorial style to skirmishes both within state government and outside of it. In turf battles and other fights, he routinely clashed with then-ESDC downstate chairman Pat Foye, then-Port Authority executive director Tony Shorris, then-Lower Manhattan Construction and Command Center director Charlie Maikish, and numerous city officials. He was also said to have clashed with Marisa Lago, the new chief executive of the ESDC, according to a person familiar with the dynamic. Still, he forged important alliances in his time, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—a powerful voice in Lower Manhattan—has repeatedly advocated for both Mr. Schick and the LMDC, which the mayor has attacked as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. (The New York Observer, by Eliot Brown, January 5, 2009)
  • President of Business Indicted in DB Fire Linked to Companies with Rich NY Contracts .. . The tragic Deutsche Bank fire took the lives of two firefighters on Aug. 18, 2007. The contractor charged with manslaughter in the Deutsche Bank fire continues to reel in lucrative public dollars through a complex web of affiliates and consultant work, the Daily News has learned. Days after the Aug. 18, 2007, fire, the John Galt Corp. was booted from the job for failing to meet “site supervision, maintenance and project safety” requirements, records show. The company quickly became a target of a criminal probe. On Dec. 22, Galt was indicted on manslaughter charges in the deaths of firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino. All of this has had little effect on Galt’s president, Greg Blinn. Another of his companies, Regional Scaffolding, is still working at the Deutsche Bank and other public works projects across the city. Regional has been at the tower since 2005, hired by the state Lower Manhattan Development Corp. Through November, Regional racked up $17.5 million in fees. Regional also has three city contracts worth $6 million to supply scaffolding to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. After the fire, the agency barred Regional from future contracts, said spokesman Mark Daly. The state has taken no such action with Regional. Ten months after the Deutsche Bank fire, the NYPD gave Regional a $4,700 contract to fix a sidewalk in front of a Bronx precinct. Another Galt-related company, Eastern States Construction, has Blinn listed as its president, records show. Eastern has two contracts with the state Department of Transportation – a $6 million deal to replace a Route 17 overpass in upstate Monroe and another $6.3 million contract to repair overpasses at various locations. On Dec. 10, 12 days before Galt was indicted, Eastern won a $2 million contract to rehabilitate a Thruway overpass in Nyack, Rockland County. State DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post said the Eastern contracts were awarded prior to the fire. A Thruway Authority spokesman did not return calls. Another firm linked to Galt is Windham Construction, a minority-owned business that got a $3.6 million subcontract to replace steel bearings on the Verrazano Bridge eight months after the fire. Galt executive Paul Mazzucca was a Windham project supervisor years ago. Mazzucca also is a Regional executive. Mazzucca’s father once told a federal judge Windham was owned by his brother-in-law, Roger Wong Mulley. Mulley disputed that claim in an interview with The News. In May, three vehicles registered to Galt were transferred to Windham, state records show. Windham was hired as a Verrazano subcontractor in a $65 million repair project that began in 2007. The contract set aside 5% of the work to minority firms. In documents given to MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Windham used Mazzucca and Blinn as references. The agency did not return a call for comment. In 1997, a federal administrative judge explored Windham’s relationship to Regional at a hearing held after Windham was cited for safety violations. At the time, Windham was a subcontractor on the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn. The judge asked Windham foreman Ray Mathison if Regional and Windham were separate. “They’re separate but they’re tied together, also,” Mathison said. Mulley said his firm has no ties to Galt. “I just know of them,” he said. Windham, Regional, Eastern and Galt are part of a web of corporate entities that includes 11 other related companies, linked by address and names. For a time, Windham, Regional and Galt shared the same Bronx address at 3900 Webster Ave., documents show. Four months after the fire, another Galt executive, Mitch Alvo, got a job with another company hired to clean up the mess at Deutsche Bank. In December 2007, Alvo became a consultant to Gramercy Group, a demolition firm hired to enclose the Deutsche Bank perimeter, convert an abandoned coin vault to storage and shore up floors damaged in the fire. He worked as a Gramercy “consultant” from December 2007 through April 9, 2008, when Gramercy claims it first learned Alvo was a probe target. Only then was Alvo fired. Soon after, the city barred Gramercy from further city contracts. Gramercy declined comment. Two weeks ago, Alvo was indicted on manslaughter charges for overseeing removal of the standpipe that would have provided water to the upper floors during the Deutsche Bank fire. He pleaded not guilty. (Daily News, by Robert Gearty & Greg B. Smith, Jan. 5, 2009)
  • New High Rise Safety Measures Aim to Prevent Fires … New changes in the Department of Building’s regulations aim to maintain high-rise construction safety and prevent fatal fires. Standpipes will now undergo weekly inspections to make sure there are no breaches throughout the building. Water connections and valves on each floor below the construction will be inspected daily. In 2007, two firefighters died battling flames at the former Deutsche Bank building in Downtown Manhattan, which was severely damaged after the collapse of the trade center during the September 11th attacks. Investigators found the sprinkler system in the Deutsche Bank building had been dismantled, a standpipe cut and the fire exits had been blocked off. (NY1, 01/03/09)
  • The Synagogue That Doesn’t Just Pray For Your Health … .”As always, Gouverneur is attending to the health and wellness needs of the Grand Street community,” says Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, a lifelong Lower East Side resident and a physician at Gouverneur’s World Trade Center Environmental Health Center. Community residents will have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Wilkenfeld, as well as several other Gouverneur medical professionals, … (Grand Street News, January 2009)

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