NEW YORK – The head of a construction agency overseeing the dismantling of a ground zero skyscraper wrote a memo warning its state owners three months before a fatal fire that more resources were needed to take down the building safely.
Charles Maikish, then the executive director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, wrote on May 25 that the state owners needed to add staff to the site of the former Deutsche Bank tower. Two firefighters were killed on Aug. 18 in a blaze after months of accidents and safety violations at the contaminated skyscraper.
"We assumed this role on an interim basis in order to be good soldiers," Maikish wrote to Avi Schick, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the state agency that owns the building.
"However, we also made it very clear that we could not perform it safely or efficiently without being provided the necessary resources," Maikish wrote.
Excerpts of the memo appear in Wednesday editions of the New York Post. Maikish spokesman Ken Frydman said Wednesday that the letter was hand-delivered on May 25 to Schick, LMDC president David Emil, deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff and two other LMDC board members.
Senior LMDC officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Schick and Emil never received the memo. Bob Harvey, who was Maikish's deputy in May and is now executive director, said Wednesday he wasn't aware that Maikish had written or sent the memo.
The command center, created in 2004 by the governor and the mayor to manage billions of dollars of ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site and downtown Manhattan, has supervised the dismantling of the building since the middle of last year. At that time, the LMDC announced it was going out of business and reduced its staff, including two managers who had been on the site of the contaminated skyscraper every day.
Heavy work at the tower started in December, when contractors began taking down the building floor by floor and continued work removing toxic debris left there by the collapse of the trade center's south tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
It has been plagued by safety violations and accidents since then; investigators blame careless smoking for the Aug. 18 blaze.
In the May memo, written two weeks after a sprinkler pipe plummeted off the building and into a nearby firehouse, Maikish wrote that "we have been repeatedly denied resources" to properly oversee the project.
"We are told by the staff of LMDC that this is a result of a need for the new administration to review the justification for these resources required by a project of this complexity," he wrote.
Harvey, who took over Maikish's job in July, said on Wednesday that in February, three more managers were added to the staff of URS, a contractor working for the owner, to oversee the project more thoroughly.
"I felt we needed more coverage," he said.
An engineer was recently recruited from another downtown building agency to work on site for the LMDC, replacing the two project managers who left last year, Harvey said.
Harvey said that no one from the construction command center has maintained a daily presence at the site.