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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PR- 308-07
August 22, 2007

UPDATE ON INVESTIGATIONS OF THE FIRE AT 130 LIBERTY STREET

The Fire Department’s Bureau of Fire Investigations (BFI), continues to investigate the cause of the fire at 130 Liberty Street. Fire Marshals have not yet reached any conclusions with respect to the cause of the fire. In addition to investigating the cause, BFI is also focusing on the building’s standpipe system, which was required by law to be maintained as the building was being demolished.

The FDNY Safety Command’s investigation into the deaths of Firefighters Beddia and Graffagnino and the Department’s response at the scene is also moving forward. Commissioner Scoppetta has directed that this investigation also examine why the Department did not have a pre-fire plan for the building; a fire plan is currently being developed for 130 Liberty Street by the FDNY Operations Unit. The implementation plan for the deconstruction of the building and the contract between Bovis and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) also required that a dry standpipe be maintained. Nonetheless, the standpipe could not be used to get water to the fire on August 18, and the Safety Command has concluded that it was not operational before the fire broke out. The Rules of the City of New York that pertain to the Fire Department require the FDNY to conduct visual inspections of standpipes located in buildings under demolition every 15 days, a requirement the Safety Command has already determined has not been met. The Department continues to investigate why the building’s sprinkler system was not operational.

Since April 2002, FDNY conducted numerous inspections at 130 Liberty Street that included surveillance inspections conducted by Engine 10, the local company housed immediately adjacent to the building; inspections in response to complaints from the site, including complaints about the standpipe; and a comprehensive inspection of the building on March 22, 2005 by a chief officer from Battalion 1. That inspection included a review of all floors, basements, and building systems, including the standpipe, which was determined, based upon that visual inspection, to be in service at that time.  The approximately 21 inspections the FDNY has conducted at 130 Liberty Street are listed in Table 1 below. The majority of these were surveillance inspections that included a visual inspection of the standpipe system to ensure that valves were properly positioned, that proper signage was in place and that the system was readily accessible.

In addition, the Fire Prevention Code requires that owners of occupied buildings conduct a hydrostatic test of standpipes once every five years, a process that involves fully charging the system with water and utilizing pressure gauges to confirm its suitability for FDNY operations.  The last hydrostatic test of the 130 Liberty Street standpipe and sprinkler systems on record was conducted on November 12 and 13, 1996, when both systems were deemed satisfactory. The next hydrostatic test was scheduled for November 2001, two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks.  That test did not occur due to the condition of the building. However, the Fire Department does not require hydrostatic testing for buildings undergoing demolition, such as 130 Liberty Street. 

The Department of Buildings issues permits for building demolitions, including for 130 Liberty Street.  In a standard deconstruction, a permit is issued to take down an entire building, but in this case, the demolition and abatement operations were going on simultaneously.  To ensure the safety of those conducting abatement work, the demolition plan required a four-floor buffer between demolition activity and abatement activity occurring on lower floors.  DOB issued permits for the floors to be deconstructed and, due to the complexity of the operation, assigned four rotating full-time building inspectors to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center. 

As part of the Site Safety Plan approved by the Buildings Department, a licensed Site Safety manager performs periodic and daily functions as dictated by Appendix A in the Building Code. These functions include conducting visual inspections of standpipes and valves to ensure they are connected to a water source and a siamese connection.

Daily inspections of the floors under deconstruction began on March 19, 2007. The most recent inspection prior to the fire occurred Friday, August 17, 2007. This inspection confirmed that the standpipe was capped on the floor below deconstruction in accordance with the Building Code and that there was no indication of a problem with the standpipe on the floors that were inspected.  Since March 2007, DOB has conducted more than 60 inspections of the deconstruction floors of the Deutsche Bank building. During that time, DOB issued six separate Stop Work Orders and 19 violations for conditions such as failure to safeguard public and property and failure to carry out demolition operations in a safe manner.  A complete listing of these violations appears in Table 2 below. The records of these inspections have been provided to FDNY’s Safety Command and Bureau of Fire Investigation and are under review.

The records of FDNY and DOB inspections show that both agencies conducted numerous inspections of various aspects and portions of the standpipe system at 130 Liberty Street.  However, it is clear that these inspections did not reveal that the standpipe was not operational as of the outbreak of the fire on August 18.  Determining when and precisely how the standpipe became non-operational are among the key questions that the Fire Marshal’s investigation seeks to answer.  A summary of inspection and violation activity appears in Tables 1 and 2 below. It should be noted that the following tables are based on the paper record that has been reviewed to date. The investigation is ongoing and will involve interviews with agency personnel that may yield additional information.

Table 1: Summary of FDNY Inspection, Violation and Administrative Activity at 130 Liberty Street

 
Activity
Date
Detail
1 Engine 10 conducts inspection of 130 Liberty. April, 2002 The structure had been designated as an “E” building within the company’s administrative district, requiring an inspection once every five years. There are no detailed records of the inspection, but, seven months after the 9/11/01 attacks, access was extremely limited.
2 Fire safety consultant notifies Engine 10 that the standpipe system was repaired, tested and in proper working order. December 12, 2003 Engine 10 was notified by a fire safety consultant representing Deutsche Bank that they were draining the standpipe system for the purpose of evaluating its condition. It was out of service for two days for the evaluation.
3 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. May 11, 2004 No violations issued.
4 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. June 22, 2004 No violations issued.
5 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. June 25, 2004 No violations issued.
6 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. October 12, 2004 No violations issued.
7 Engine 10 issues a violation order to an LMDC project manager. October 20, 2004 An anonymous verbal complaint was received for no elevator for FDNY use and no standpipe in service. Building owner Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) is cited on the violation order to provide an affidavit from a licensed plumber that the standpipe is in service and able to function as required on all floors as per Fire and Buildings regulations, and an affidavit from an elevator mechanic/company attesting that it is functioning properly.
8 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. November 30, 2004 No violations issued.
9 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. January 11, 2005 No violations issued.
10 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. March 11, 2005 No violations issued.
11 On-site inspection. March 22, 2005 No violations issued. Battalion Chief (Batt 1) conducts comprehensive inspection on status of building. Includes inspection of standpipe system which is found to be in service as a dry system.
12 FDNY conducts Familiarization Site Visit. April 6, 2005 Representatives from Manhattan Borough Command, Division 1, Battalion 1, Engine 10 and Ladder 10 participate in visit coordinated by FDNY Operations Planning and Strategy Unit.
13 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. July 29, 2005 No violations issued.
14 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. October 4, 2005 No violations issued.
15 Violation order issued. October 5, 2005

Violation order issued to LMDC to remove all obstructions to siamese access on all sides of the building, and to ensure signage and red lights to indicate in-service siamese. An order is issued to maintain as such throughout the duration of the project.

16 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. February 10, 2006 No violations issued.
17 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. February 28, 2006 No violations issued.
18 Regular surveillance inspection by Engine 10. March 31, 2006 No violations issued.
19 Memorandum issued from Engine 10 to Battalion 1. April 6, 2006 Memorandum says “Today we are advised by project managers at 130 Liberty Street that exterior hoists are in service and they are preferred method of accessing the upper floors of the building. There are two interior elevators still operational. However, they will be put out of service in near future.”
20 Listing of buildings updated. May 2006 A listing of all buildings in the administrative area of Division 1 lists 130 Liberty Street as having a dry standpipe, and a sprinkler system out of service. These lists are forwarded from local units to the Battalion up to the Division for compilation.
21 Listing of buildings updated. November 2006 A listing of all buildings in the administrative area of Division 1 lists 130 Liberty Street as having a dry standpipe, and a sprinkler system out of service. These lists are forwarded from local units to the Battalion up to the Division for compilation.

Table 2: Summary of DOB Violations Issued at 130 Liberty Street

 

Activity

Date

Detail

1

Issued to John Galt Group.

March 27, 2007

Work does not conform to approved plans.  At the roof level, demolition operations were underway on southwest side of building called for no machine assisted demolition.  During inspection, machines were being used at this side of building. A partial Stop Work Order was issued for all demolition work at the southwest side of the roof. On April 4, 2007, the partial Stop Work Order was rescinded after the contractor provided the required engineering reports concerning the demolition to the Buildings Department.

 

2

Issued to John Galt Group.

March 29, 2007

Work has commenced unlawfully in an area that was subject to a partial Stop Work Order issued on March 27, 2007. The contractor paid a civil penalty of $2,000.  

 

3

Issued to John Galt Group.

April 11, 2007

Failure to maintain adequate housekeeping at level 39. Plywood has been staged at exterior of building on scaffold at top level which is not in use at time of inspection. The Buildings Department determined the contractor removed the plywood from the area.

 

4

Issued to John Galt Group.

April 19, 2007

Work without a permit: work noted in sub-cellar south side of building coin vault, opening created in structural wall. A partial Stop Work Order was issued for all work in the cellar coin vault. On May 8, 2007, the partial Stop Work Order was rescinded after the contractor obtained a permit.

 

5

Issued to John Galt Group.

May 17, 2007

Failure to carry out demolition operations in a safe and proper manner.  Stop Work Ordered issued. On May 31, 2007, the Stop Work Order was lifted after a revised means and methods plan for demolition was submitted and approved by the Buildings Department.

 

6

Issued to Bovis.

May 17, 2007

Failure to carry out demolition operations in safe and proper manner.  A Stop Work Order was issued for all demolition operations. On May 31, 2007, the Stop Work Order was lifted after a revised means and methods plan for demolition was submitted and approved by the Buildings Department.

 

7

Issued to Bovis.

May 17, 2007

Failure to safeguard public and property affected by construction operations.  A Stop Work Order was issued for all demolition operations. On May 31, 2007, the Stop Work Order was lifted after a revised means and methods plan for demolition was submitted and approved by the Buildings Department.

 

8

Issued to John Galt Group.

May 17, 2007

Failure to safeguard public and property affected by construction operations.  A Stop Work Order was issued for all demolition operations. On May 31, 2007, the Stop Work Order was lifted after a revised means and methods plan for demolition was submitted and approved by the Buildings Department.

 

9

Issued to John Galt Group.

May 31, 2007

Work was being carried out contrary to plans, specification, and means and methods.

 

10

Issued to Bovis.

May 31, 2007

Work was being carried out contrary to plans, specification and means and methods.

 

11

Issued to Bovis.

June 6, 2007

Failure to comply with Site Safety Plan per regulation according to revised Site Safety Plan dated June 4, 2007, which stated that Bovis is in charge of making sure housekeeping requirements are met. The Buildings Department determined in a later inspection that the area was cleaned of debris.

 

12

Issued to Bovis.

June 6, 2007

Failure to safely and properly remove material/debris from construction site on 32nd floor; large amount of combustible material/debris has been allowed to accumulate at interior of floor without being removed from site at reasonable intervals. The Buildings Department determined upon subsequent inspection that the material had been removed.

 

13

Issued to John Galt Group.

June 20, 2007

Opening holes not covered on the 30th and 29th floors; plywood has been erected to the building façade leaving a gap of 12 inches around perimeter of those floors which created an area for elements to fall. The Buildings Department determined upon subsequent inspection that the contractor had covered the gaps.

 

14

Issued to John Galt Group.

July 3, 2007

Exterior beams and columns are being removed in an unsafe manner. A partial Stop Work Order was issued for the removal of the exterior perimeter columns and beams. On July 6, 2007, the partial Stop Work Order was rescinded after the contractor provided the required engineering reports concerning the demolition to the Buildings Department.

 

15

Issued to John Galt Group.

July 11, 2007

Opening holes not covered during demolition.  A large hole existed on the 31st floor where demolition operation is taking place. The Buildings Department determined upon subsequent inspection that the contractor had covered the holes and marked off the area as a safety precaution.

 

16

Issued to John Galt Group.

August 1, 2007

Failure to carry out demolition operations in a safe and proper manner.  Burning operations are being performed on the 28th floor causing sparks to run down column and perimeter of building and elevator shaft on the 24th floor and 25th floor.  There is combustible material being stored uncontained.  There is no fire-watch on the 24th floor. A Stop Work Order was issued for all burning operations. The Stop Work Order was rescinded after combustible material was removed and a Fire Watch was put in place.

 

17

Issued to Bovis.

August 1, 2007

Failure to safely and properly remove combustible debris from construction site.  Excessive amount of combustible debris is being stored throughout the 24th and 25th floors uncontained, creating a hazardous condition due to sparks falling down elevator shaft and along column around the perimeter. A Stop Work Order was issued for all burning operations on Floors 28 and 29. The Stop Work Order was rescinded after combustible material was removed and a Fire Watch was put in place.

 

18

Issued to John Galt Group.

August 3, 2007

Failure to meet FDNY requirements.  Certificate to store/use acetylene and oxygen tank on premises for demolition work being performed has expired.  A Stop Work Order was issued for all burning operations. The Stop Work Order was rescinded on August 6, 2007 after the contractors obtained the required permit from the Fire Department.

 

19

Issued to Bovis.

August 19, 2007

Dangerous place and things, broken glass, damaged hoist, torn scaffold netting, deflected steel.  A Stop Work Order was issued for all demolition operations. This Stop Work Order remains in place. 

 







MEDIA CONTACT:


Stu Loeser/Jason Post   (212) 788-2958



GENERAL CONTACT:

Frank Gribbon   (Fire Department)
(718) 999-2056

Kate Lindquist   (Department of Buildings)
(212) 566-3473


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