Thursday, August 23, 2007


Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal editorial page has looked at the recent blaze at the Deutsche Bank building near Ground Zero, which killed two firefighters, and he's found the villain: those damn bureaucrats.

...Now that two men have died trying to put out a crummy fire, maybe the time has arrived to squarely face just what the appalling six-year presence of the Deutsche Bank building represents.

... the inability to get this building down stands as a broader rebuke to a country that has become so comfortable with indulging its countless legal, personal, political and administrative obsessions that it cannot protect its own people by doing the obvious.

... Our public officials and the attendant factions and community groups are so far gone into their never-never lands of crossing "t's" and dotting "i's" that they barely know how to bring an issue to resolution.

...Lest a fiber of asbestos float from the building and spread cancer panic across lower Manhattan's streets, the one-floor-at-a-time demolition required an "abatement and removal" plan whose mind-boggling technical and physical details would fill half the first section of this newspaper ("All interior non-structural building materials will be removed under negative pressure...").

Yeah, why so cautious? After all, the much more rapid cleanup at the World Trade Center site was no big deal healthwise, right? Oh, er, I'm sorry -- yes, it was.

Henninger continues:

... we compulsively drive the system now to develop the most exquisite, complex procedures, which allow us to think ourselves both perfectly safe and ethically perfect.

Procedural perfectionism has been raised to religious status.

Yeah, that's what we had at the Deutsche Bank building -- "procedural perfectionism."

Or perhaps not:

Workers at the toxic former Deutsche Bank tower drank, smoked and ignored basic safety rules on the job -- and the company doing the $177 million demolition project never reined them in, a whistleblower told the Daily News....

He said the 29th floor was casually known as "Teddy's Tavern" because of the vodka and other booze regularly consumed in that floor's decontamination unit, where men cleaned up and ate meals....

The whistleblower also said work crews smoked heavily and ran live power lines along floors where asbestos removal was being done -- a dangerous lapse....

He said the company fired an asbestos supervisor around last Christmas because he was routinely drunk, but then rehired him in the spring to run the 17th floor, which is where the FDNY believes the fire ignited....

Yeah, maybe it wasn't exactly perfectionism:

The New York Fire Department failed to visually inspect standpipes in the former Deutsche Bank building every 15 days as required by city rules for buildings being demolished, and had not done any inspections at the building since November 2006, according to records released yesterday by City Hall.

The standpipe system's readiness to perform in a fire was last checked in November 1996, when the building was a functioning office building....

Investigators have zeroed in on the building's standpipe as they investigate last Saturday's fire.... The standpipe was not operational before the fire broke out, according to an administration news release....

One fire investigator said that the law enforcement officials were struck by how damaged the standpipe was. The investigator also said it appeared that workers had been staying in the basement overnight, in violation of an order to keep people out.

The records released by City Hall ... show that the department was aware of reports that the sprinkler system was not working....

Oh, but I'm just being a liberal nitpicker. We don't have too little caution about these things -- we have too much caution! We should've all just bought some beers and torn the damn building down ourselves! Make a party of it! Maybe Daniel Henninger could've grilled some burgers.

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