FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Echoes of 9/11

by JENNA ORKIN

The tragic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan on Saturday which took the lives of two firefighters, Joseph Graffagnino, 33 and Robert Beddia, 53, and which has already spawned a criminal investigation, highlights problems about which the community of Lower Manhattan has been warning for years.

The company hired to perform the demolition of the building whose chief claim to fame, post-9/11, was that it had been contaminated with 150,000 times the normal levels of asbestos among other toxic substances, (which have since been reduced to a supposedly safe level) has "apparently never done any work like it" — nor much of anything else since it was incorporated in 1983.

But though the John Galt Corporation has proven as elusive as the eponymous character in the Ayn Rand novel, Atlas Shrugged, which opens with the question, "Who is John Galt?" it has served as an effective front for members of Safeway Environmental Corporation whose contract had been cancelled because of mob connections. One of Safeway’s owners, Hank Greenberg, is a two-time felon who has been linked by the FBI to the Gambino crime family. And Safeway Environmental was the corporation in charge of a demolition on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when the building collapsed ahead of time, trapping pedestrians including a seven-month-old baby.

On top of this shaky foundation (not the sort one wants when demolishing a former Superfund site) the NYC Fire Department also failed to check the standpipes at the former Deutsche Bank building every 15 days as required by law. The Buildings Department maintains it conducted daily inspections of the floors under ‘deconstruction’ including on the day before the fire but it’s unclear whether anyone reported the broken standpipe in the basement which prevented water from reaching the two trapped firefighters.

Lest the reader assume that Saturday’s tragedy might result in at least a temporary show of caution, the following Thursday two more firefighters sustained serious head injuries from debris that fell from scaffolding at the site.

Shocking as all these events are, they are no surprise to the community of Lower Manhattan which initially brought to the public’s attention the shadowy connections of Safeway Environmental, protested the hiring of the equally dubious John Galt Corporation and urged the City and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which owns the former Deutsche Bank building, to put in place emergency plans both for the work site as well as for the surrounding area.

Yet when the fire broke out on Saturday, many residents received no warnings or instructions.

It is therefore particularly galling to read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal as well as a letter in the New York Times that essentially blame Saturday’s tragedy on the community’s preciousness about any remaining environmental hazards in the building. It is the community which first highlighted unsafe conditions at the site when, for instance, windows fell out of the building.

The letter, whose writer lives in Brooklyn, maintains that the community’s concern for ‘every speck of dust and every fiber of asbestos’ has delayed the demolition process and that somehow that delay caused the fire.

The Wall Street Journal piece compares the community’s arguments (which are supported by scientific expertise and legal precedent) to "the endless debate and litigation we’ve also layered into efforts to surveil and prosecute terrorists." (That pesky Constitution again.)

The arguments put forth in these two pieces attempt to pit the interests of firefighters and site workers against those of residents, office workers and students. In fact, these populations have worked effectively together for six years and have always been able to see through and rise above the divide-and-conquer tactics of their opponents.

JENNA ORKIN, founder of the World Trade Center Environmental Organization, is one of twelve original plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the EPA. She can be reached at: Jennakilt@aol.com


Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail