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Toxic Tower Damaged on 9/11 Finally Coming Down

Wed January 12, 2011 - National Edition

NEW YORK (AP) The contaminated bank tower stood shrouded in black netting for years near the World Trade Center site, filled with toxic dust and the remains of 9/11 victims.

Nearly a decade after the trade center’s south tower fell into it, the building with a sad history of legal and regulatory fights, multiple accidents and a blaze that killed two firefighters will finally be gone.

The demise of the 41-story former Deutsche Bank building, just south of the trade center site, is at hand.

The bank tower — first slated for deconstruction in 2005, when a government agency bought it to end an impasse over who would pay to take it down — is down to two stories above street level.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency that oversaw the $300 million dismantling, said it will be completely removed in a little over a week.

"You’re talking about the end of an era," said Kirk Raymond of Windsor, Ontario, gazing at what’s left of the building on a visit to the trade center site. "You’re erasing the last signs of something pretty terrible."

The delicate work of dismantling a skyscraper — referred to by its street address, 130 Liberty — is visible from surrounding buildings and from the street.

Less than an hour after a hijacked jet slammed into it on Sept. 11, 2001, the trade center’s south tower collapsed, tearing a 15-story gash in the Deutsche Bank building.

The building was shrouded in black as Deutsche Bank and its insurers fought over whether to raze it or clean it.

To resolve the dispute, the LMDC, the city-state agency created to oversee the rebuilding of the trade center area, agreed to buy the building for $90 million, clean it and tear it down.

The cleanup of toxins including asbestos, lead, mercury, PCBs and dioxins was delayed multiple times by fights over how to remove the material without polluting the neighborhood.

More than 700 body parts of Sept. 11 victims were recovered, mostly on the roof, along with parts of the hijacked plane. Environmental and city regulators spent years coming up with a cleanup plan that would keep the toxins in with polyurethane coverings and other protective panels.

Accidents plagued the deconstruction. In May 2007, a 22-ft. (6.7 m) pipe fell from the building and crashed into the firehouse next door, injuring two firefighters.

Three months later, a construction worker’s discarded cigarette sparked a fire that tore through several stories. Firefighters faced hazards including deactivated sprinklers, stairwells that had been blocked to contain toxic debris and a broken standpipe, a crucial water conduit like a fire hydrant.

Firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino were trapped on the burning 14th floor and died of smoke inhalation on Aug. 18, 2007.

The fire delayed the cleanup and dismantling for a year. Removal of toxic debris started in 2008, and deconstruction resumed in late 2009.

LMDC spokesman John DeLibero said the tower crane that once stood 570 ft. (174 m) high, removing pieces of the building, will come down this week. The dismantling will be complete around Jan. 20; he said the post-holiday snowstorm delayed a Jan. 15 target date.

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