Three Questions for Rich Dalessio, Fiterman HallNov 20, 2009
From 2002 to mid-2009, Fiterman Hall stood just north of the World Trade Center, wrapped safely in scaffolding and netting. Now the 15-story building has virtually disappeared after just four and a half months of demolition.
The 1959 former office building was made a City University of New York (CUNY) extension in 1993, when it was donated by philanthropists Miles and Shirley Fiterman and converted to classrooms. In 2000 it underwent a $62 million renovation that was drawing thousands of students daily — before it was badly damaged and rendered unusable from falling debris on September 11, 2001.
Since then, regulators and officials from CUNY and co-owner Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) coordinated the funding and planning to abate, deconstruct, and replace Fiterman Hall.
DASNY’s Rich Dalessio has been the project manager at Fiterman Hall since 2005, overseeing the various stages of planning, and coordinating safety protocols with partner agencies. He’s worked closely with construction manager Tishman/LiRo, PAL Environmental Services, and consultant Airtek Environmental to keep the community informed. Now, with the 1959 building nearly down to only its substructure, Mr. Dalessio is considering the Fiterman deconstruction his farewell project as he transitions into retirement.
We asked Mr. Dalessio about the remaining work at Fiterman Hall, and what the process will be for making it a new-construction site.
When Fiterman Hall deconstruction work is officially complete, what will the building site look like?
Dalessio: The actual deconstruction of the 15-story Fiterman Hall should be complete by Thanksgiving, with all steel and masonry being recycled. The project took about four and a half months total, with an average of 40 demolition crew members. By contrast, the remediation phase took about one year and averaged about 110 workers.
At the conclusion of the project, all scaffolding will be gone, along with the sidewalk bridge. Only the existing foundations will remain at the site, which will be surrounded by a construction fence. The existing interior foundation walls are already braced in preparation for the new construction — though some modifications and additions to the existing foundations are necessary for the new building.
How long does DASNY/CUNY expect the transition to be before beginning work on the new building?
Dalessio: Work on the new building is anticipated to begin within a month of completion of deconstruction, sometime during the month of December. Presently, the planning, coordination and permitting with the agencies having jurisdiction over the new construction is underway. The foundation work required for the new building is the first phase, and work to modify the existing foundations, drill caissons, and add new footings will be the priority. We expect the foundation work to take from six to eight months. Subsequent to that will be the steel erection, which should take about eight months and is scheduled to be completed by March 2011. Construction of the new Fiterman Hall is anticipated to take about 34 months to complete.
What’s the most important thing the downtown community should know about the Fiterman Hall project?
Dalessio: Planning the decontamination and deconstruction of Fiterman Hall required the efforts of a multitude of agencies. To work within that environment, under the intense scrutiny the project commanded, required a high level of communication and cooperation. One of the most beneficial forums were the bi-weekly meetings we attended with the various regulators to discuss the project. It afforded all parties, including FDNY, the ability to participate in finding solutions to the challenges facing the project. In addition, meeting with the community on a regular basis through the Community Advisory Committee and Community Board 1 WTC Redevelopment Committee allowed us to keep people who work and live downtown informed about what we were doing and why we were doing it, as well as allowing us to discuss mutual concerns.
Construction of the new Fiterman Hall — anticipated to open for the fall 2012 school year — has been eagerly anticipated by both CUNY and BMCC (Borough of Manhattan Community College). In such a special area of New York, we’re proud to reopen an institution for higher education, which will go on to provide opportunities for future generations.