Wednesday, May 23, 2007

130 Liberty Street

One of the myths frequently repeated by the 9/11 deniers is that the towers "fell into their own footprint". This is ignoring the massive damage that they caused to other buildings as they collapsed, most notably buildings 5,6, and 7, but also others. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article this morning on 130 Liberty Street, which even now they are trying to figure out how to safely bring down. A subscription is required to view the original article, but I have posted the important parts.

Building a 40-story skyscraper is a challenge. Dismantling one can be an ordeal.

And when it's a building damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks, littered with human remains, contaminated with noxious dusts, and wedged into a densely populated area, things get particularly complicated.

That's the situation in New York at 130 Liberty St., a hulking black tower that suffered a 15-story gash from falling debris in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was originally slated for demolition in early 2004. After delays due to insurance fights, environmental regulators and walkouts by contractors, the deconstruction finally began in earnest a few months ago. The top floors started to disappear as a crane lowered steel beams to the ground. Shielded by a black shroud, workers in protective suits began decontaminating the inside, scrubbing every surface by hand.

Then early Thursday came yet another setback.

A worker high in the tower cut a 15-foot length of pipe which caromed off the protective scaffolding and fell 35 stories. It crashed through the roof of the fire station across the street that lost six men on Sept. 11. The pipe missed two firefighters who were treated for dust exposure to their eyes.

In the wake of the accident, the city Buildings Department issued a stop-work order and is investigating the demolition plan. The deconstruction has been suspended, though the abatement of hazardous-material continues, as does the search for human remains. The falling pipe was just the latest mishap in a long campaign by a dozen government agencies to erase the stubborn survivor of the Sept. 11 attacks. Even as construction of the new World Trade Center hits its stride across the street at Ground Zero, 130 Liberty St., also known at the Deutsche Bank building (for a former owner), continues to confound. "It will be more expensive to take it down than to put it up," says Charles Brickbauer, one of the original architects of the building.

In 1974, 130 Liberty cost $76 million to construct, according to press reports at the time. In 2004, the state spent $90 million to acquire the building. As of February 2005 it had allocated $100 million for the demolition and in February ponied up another $30 million, though that cost is subject to further negotiations with contractors and insurers. Of the amount allocated, the state has spent $85 million to date, and much of the work remains. A spokesman says the overall cost will be more than $100 million.