Fiterman Hall Evolves From 9/11

View from Fiterman Hall broken window, above, of the other 9/11 World Trade Center destruction. Top, recently decontaminated sixth floor of Fiterman Hall, which is in early stages of demolition.

Nearly eight years after its destruction in the 9/11 terror attacks, Fiterman Hall has been meticulously and successfully decontaminated of toxins, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College building is in the early stages of demolition. A gleaming new Fiterman Hall is expected to rise on the Lower Manhattan site by 2012.

The remediation of the 15-story instructional building at 30 West Broadway - which was irreparably damaged when 7 World Trade Center collapsed on it - was completed at the end of May. The 14-month process involved the painstaking removal of contaminants, primarily asbestos, under a multi-pronged safety plan continuously monitored by federal, state and city agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state departments of environmental conservation and labor, and the city Department of Environmental Protection. The New York State Dormitory Authority (DASNY) is managing the project on behalf of CUNY with the oversight of Vice Chancellor for Facilities, Planning, Construction and Management Iris Weinshall.

At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 catastrophe, the 1950s-era Fiterman Hall, a $30 million building designed by William Lescaze, was the largest private gift to a community college in the nation. After Miles and Shirley Fiterman donated the office building to BMCC, it underwent renovation to convert it for classroom use, a $65 million project that was near completion when the World Trade Center was attacked. With the loss of Fiterman, BMCC's instructional space was reduced by one-third.

During the remediation, the asbestos material - which had coated the inner walls - had to be ground off so that hazardous dust would not be created. The process required small tents around the work areas and strict adherence to environmental codes, according to CUNY officials. Crevices were filled and smoothed so no dust could reenter. The structure was stripped to its concrete and steel skeleton.

"> Rendering of the new Fiterman Hall: 14 stories high, 390,000 gross square feet, with a mechanical rooftop penthouse.

Fiterman Hall has been approved for deconstruction and the work has begun. Starting with windows, the now-clean building will be taken down slowly, a four- to six-month project to be completed this fall. The 27-month rebuilding on the site - bordered by West Broadway, Greenwich Street, Barclay Street and Park Place - will immediately follow.

The road to the remediation, decon-struction and rebuilding of Fiterman Hall has been long and circuitous, involving the development and approval, by regulators and the Lower Manhattan community, of detailed plans to deal with the environmental and safety issues.

"A good deal of progress has taken place at Fiterman," said Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, a leading proponent of rebuilding Fiterman. "We've worked with CUNY and the community to do this in a safe, efficient manner."

Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations, said during a June 12 tour of Fiterman Hall with Silver and the Community Advisory Committee that 9/11 left "21,000 students in search of an education," to which Silver replied, "The students are part of Fiterman's solution."

Silver added, "We've secured the funds (to rebuild) and BMCC will have access to a new Fiterman Hall as soon as possible." He added, "I applaud the mayor and the community for coming together to get this commitment [of rebuilding Fiterman] off the ground."

The new building, designed by Pei Cobb Freed Architects, is to be 14 stories high and 390,000 gross square feet, with a mechanical rooftop penthouse. Its exterior will be constructed of brick and glass and an aluminum curtain wall. The building will feature high speed elevators and escalators to move students quickly to classrooms, computer labs, a gallery exhibiting the Fiterman family's art collection and other displays, and a public café in the lobby. There will be two public entrances, including one facing a park and the World Trade Center site.