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For Immediate Release
July 10, 2009

BUILDINGS COMMISSIONER ROBERT LIMANDRI ANNOUNCES DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS AFTER REVIEW OF DOI REPORT ON FIRE AT 130 LIBERTY STREET

Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced that two Department of Buildings (DOB) supervisors have been disciplined in connection with the supervision and training of inspectors at 130 Liberty Street in Manhattan, the site of a fire that claimed the lives of New York City firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino. This announcement follows a review of a report by the City's Department of Investigation, which led an administrative investigation of the Buildings and Fire Departments' actions leading up to the fire on August 18, 2007. The actions taken today are in addition to disciplinary charges that were served earlier this year against a DOB employee who subsequently retired. DOI’s investigation, which was conducted in conjunction with DOB’s Internal Audits and Disciplinary Unit, began after a 16-month criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau that resulted in indictments against the John Galt Corporation and two of its employees and an employee of Bovis Lend Lease LMB, Inc. No criminal charges were filed against any City employees.

On the day of the fire, and in the months prior, Robert Iulo, former Executive Director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center Task Force, supervised the DOB inspectors assigned to the 130 Liberty Street site and the members of the Buildings Enforcement Safety Team (BEST), which specializes in the inspections of high-rise construction operations. As indicated in the report, Iulo failed to ensure that the four inspectors permanently assigned to the 130 Liberty Street site received proper training to perform their duties and that their inspections were performed in an adequate manner. The report also states that Iulo instructed an inspector not to issue a violation and a Stop Work Order when a standpipe breach was identified on the 28th floor, notwithstanding that the condition was ultimately corrected. As a result of the DOI investigation, DOB served Iulo with disciplinary charges on February 17, 2009. Three days later, he retired with the charges pending.

Thomas Connors, Executive Director of Construction Site Safety, and Christopher Santulli, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Emergency and Safety Operations, have been issued letters of reprimand for failing to ensure that the inspectors were properly trained. As indicated in the report, Connors and Santulli were aware that the inspectors were not adequately trained but failed to follow up to ensure that they received training. Both employees no longer have any supervisory role in the ongoing deconstruction operations at the 130 Liberty Street site. Connors, who had an initial role in directly overseeing the inspectors, will be required to undergo additional leadership and management training.

“Managers have a responsibility to ensure their employees can perform their duties, and this report highlights a breakdown in supervision and communication,” said Commissioner LiMandri. “Since the fire, we have implemented changes to improve our inspection procedures and increase accountability. We are continuing to expand our training programs and working with the Fire Department and other agencies to increase safety at all construction sites so such a tragedy can never happen again.”

Since the fire on August 18, 2007, DOB has implemented several changes to improve the inspection process at the 130 Liberty Street site including:

  • A standard inspection checklist was created so inspections can be performed consistently and completely by each inspector.

  • Inspectors were given 30 hours of OSHA training and received an additional one week of on-the-job training with a BEST inspector.

  • Inspection supervisors perform monthly training and audit inspections with every DOB inspector, including those assigned to the site.

  • Six inspectors are assigned to the site in order to provide the required six days per week, 24 hours a day coverage matching the contractors’ work schedule.

  • Inspectors have been trained in the use of asbestos protective equipment and enter the abatement areas to inspect for safety issues such as egress and fire protection.

  • DOB has allocated additional engineering and high-rise plan examination staff to inspect the site three times per week and focus on safe demolition operations.

  • DOB now requires detailed drawings of the decontamination enclosure systems and other related physical construction required to support the abatement.

  • The implementation of 33 recommendations proposed by a Working Group of City agencies convened by Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler to conduct a comprehensive, seven-month review of oversight and operations at construction, demolition, and abatement (CDA) sites. Key initiatives include a smoking ban at all construction sites, new data-sharing protocols among DOB, FDNY and DEP and cross-training programs among firefighters and DOB and DEP inspectors.

Contact:     Tony Sclafani/Kate Lindquist (212) 566-3473

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