Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Government agencies & mobsters at Deutsche Bank fire

Here's a great idea: why not have an agency in charge of coordinating all the different construction activity in Downtown Manhattan? That would prevent a disaster like the Deutsche Bank fire, right?

Wrong. That agency has already been established, and it's called the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC). While several seasoned fire fighters have been held accountable for the failure to inspect the Deutsche Bank building, there has been little attention on the LMCCC, despite some troubling failures.

Here is how the New York Times describes some of those failures in "Questions on City’s Role in Demolition Near 9/11 Site":
As it turned out, the subcontractor hired for the demolition was an organization comprised of executives from one company without the requisite experience and two senior executives from a second company under scrutiny by city investigators, a company whose former owner twice had been convicted of federal crimes, and had been accused of ties to organized crime.

Maybe the LMCCC would be off the hook if they didn't know about any of this, but they did. According to the NY Times, Martha Stark, who served on the LMCCC committee overseeing the Deutsche Bank building, received a letter from city investigators about the executives with mob ties working on the project.

(The Times has been doing a good job reporting on this, which is admirable. One firm in questioning, Safeway Environmental Corporation, was a subcontractor used in the development of their new headquarters. Safeway, incidently, was in the news back in 2005 when a building it was demolishing for Extell collapsed on Broadway & 99th.)

The questions of lack of oversight seem to be endemic in controversial projects around the city. For instance, the NYC Economic Development Corporation faced criticism because it hired AKRF without competitive bid in its environmental study of the Underground Railroad connections on Duffield Street.

Bloomberg has been praised for punishing the experienced fire fighters who failed in their inspections of the Deutsche Bank building. But will he hold the LMCCC accountable? As WNYC reports this afternoon, his administration is refusing to answer questions about its role due to the ongoing criminal investigations.