The workers started removing the metal-and-glass facade on the top floors of the Deutsche Bank AG building a day after final permits were issued to begin its long-delayed deconstruction.
The head of the downtown agency overseeing the project said removing the 41-story office tower will take a year. The space eventually will have one of five planned towers, a park and a church.
"This is a very positive action on a very difficult job," said Charles Maikish, executive director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center.
The tower was the focus of a protracted battle over who should pay to clean it up and take it down after the south tower collapsed into it on Sept. 11, 2001, tearing a 15-story gash and leaving toxic dust, debris and bone fragments. Community leaders have seen it as a symbol of inaction at the 16-acre site and residents have worried the dust in it would endanger their health.
Julie Menin, who chairs a downtown Manhattan community board, said she still has concerns about how the building will be taken down without spewing toxic dust into the neighborhood.
"It's been a real blight on the community. We obviously want to see it taken down and taken down safely," Menin said. "We will continue to be vigilant about this."
Maikish said the glass windows and metal column covers will be removed from the top four floors, followed by the steel and concrete skeleton of those floors. Material from the facade will be cut, wrapped in plastic and moved off the site, he said.
"The first thing that comes off is the skin," Maikish said.
Cleanup of asbestos, trade center debris, lead, mercury and other toxins will continue on the lower floors, as well as an ongoing search for human remains. The black shroud on the building will be lowered with the building, Maikish said.
A business leader said the beginning of work is long overdue.
"It's a physical reminder on the skyline that has been there for far too long," said Eric Deutsch, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York. "Now we are hopeful that everything is coordinated and moving ahead to allow for the deconstruction to happen as quickly as possible."
The Deutsche Bank AG tower is one of two buildings still left with heavy damage near ground zero. Environmental regulators are looking at plans to dismantle Fiterman Hall, a boarded-up college building north of the site.