Demolition Plan Filed for Tropicana Parking Garage

Mon January 12, 2004 - National Edition

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) A demolition plan has been filed for the section of Tropicana Casino and Resort parking garage that collapsed Oct. 30, killing four workers, but casino officials and public agencies are keeping it close to the vest.

Key elements of the plan, filed by Brandenburg Industrial Service Co., were withheld from public review by officials of the state Department of Community Affairs, which released an outline but removed construction drawings from it beforehand.

City officials rejected an Open Public Records Act request to see the demolition permit application filed by garage contractor Keating Building Corp. The request was filed by The Press of Atlantic City.

The city has yet to respond to a request made Jan. 8 by The Associated Press to view the demolition plans. The city’s chief construction official, Steve Frame, did not return several telephone calls seeking information on the demolition plan.

Beginning later this month, work crews are expected to start the work necessary to remove the concrete slabs left broken when the top five stories of the 10-story garage collapsed during construction.

It’s delicate work.

"It’s not your everyday demolition job, where they just get a ball and knock it down, or chip away at it and if it comes down, who cares," said Gary Roskoski, area director of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration office.

"The precarious nature of the way the slabs are laying on top of each other, nobody knows exactly what will happen if you start moving one, what reaction that will have on the rest. And you can’t move the entire structure all at once," Roskoski said.

Neither Tropicana, general contractor Keating Building Corp. nor representatives of Brandenburg will talk about the demolition plan.

Tropicana spokeswoman Maureen Siman referred calls to Keating, where spokesman Jason Rocker would not discuss the demolition plan or divulge details.

A 17-page "Project Approach" prepared by Brandenburg and submitted to the state Dec. 22 was released by the state Department of Community Affairs on Jan. 8, but without drawings that describe the scope of the project and the strategy for demolishing the collapsed portion.

The drawings, which were included by Brandenburg, were removed by DCA officials because of unspecified "security concerns," DCA spokesman E.J. Miranda said.

The document gives a general outline for the work, beginning with debris removal.

The hanging slabs may be tied to undamaged sections of the 2,400-space parking garage for stabilization, using steel cables or high-strength netting.

Once the slabs are secured, they will be cut into smaller sections. "Concrete slabs would be saw-cut into manageable sections and then lifted by crane to a staging area," the document said.

In places where concrete cutting is impossible, the slabs will be broken up by workmen using hydraulic hammers, impact hammers and small wrecking balls, allowing small pieces to fall to the bottom, where they will be removed continuously.

The removal of the slabs will help OSHA investigators attempting to pinpoint the cause, Roskoski said. The agency has until April 30 to report on the collapse.

A two-block section of Pacific Avenue –– the city’s casino strip –– remains closed next to the site of the collapse. Originally, police officials had said it would remain closed for a month after the collapse.

More street closings may be necessary once the demolition work begins, according to City Engineer Jerry Kilby.

"It’s challenging, in particular with respect to the slabs that collapsed and are hanging. Once those are removed, the remaining demolition would be more routine," he said.