NEW YORK, NY — When Battery Park City was created out of the World Trade Center (WTC) excavation 30 years ago, the developers certainly had no idea that one day this thriving and peaceful community would bear the brunt of the terrible destruction of September 11.
It was ashes to ashes and dust to dust all over again.
The residential neighborhood, which is the home to many WTC workers, was blanketed in a heavy cement dust after the WTC towers collapsed from the terrorist attacks of September 11. Residential managers in Battery Park City called in a/c manufacturer Ice-Cap, Long Island City, NY, to perform the needed cleanup of over 5,000 wall-mounted units, encrusted with debris and dust, in six weeks.
“When the buildings collapsed at the WTC, it created a thin cloud of debris,” said Michael Milazzo of Ice-Cap. “The roofs of the buildings had a foot or two of debris on them as did the a/c units. Every a/c louver, condenser coil, base pan, etc., was saturated with dust.
“And September 11 was a beautiful, warm day. Many people went to work with their windows left open or with their air conditioners running.”
Within 10 days of the attack, Ice-Cap representatives assessed the condition of the packaged terminal air conditioner (ptac) units, the through-the-wall units that the manufacturer supplies to this region.
“It was apparent that in order to clean out and restore this equipment to a safe and healthy working order, a proper cleaning protocol would have to be developed and executed,” said Ice-Cap’s Mo Siegel.
In order to give itself a head start, Ice-Cap sold several hundred new ptac units to building owners and immediately replaced some of the dirty units, which were cleaned up and re-installed later.
“These are occupied, high-end residential units,” said Milazzo. “We had to be very careful to get in and get out with a minimal amount of disturbance.”
The last thing anyone wanted to do was to stir up the dust that had settled on the ptac units.
“The key here is not to reanimate the stuff,” said Milazzo. “We didn’t want to re-energize the problem for the residents or for our workers.”
Ice-Cap bagged each unit as it was removed from the wall sleeve and then used HEPA vacuum cleaners to remove the dust from the evaporator coils, wall sleeves, room enclosures, and louvers. Workers used a light-pressurization wash to clean the condenser section, including the base pan and coil. Workers also added a new filter, dried and tested the unit, and slid it back into the wall.
According to Milazzo, his company had enough manpower to perform the cleanup. However, of the new hires that worked onsite, one worker was a former employee of the Marriott Hotel, which collapsed under the WTC.
“We had about 30 people down there and brought one of our production line shifts in to help out,” he said. “We had to shift our factory work back a few weeks, but our customers understood the urgency of the cleanup.”
Siegel was very grateful for the work his people performed.
“I cannot say enough about our employees and their determined response to a devastating situation. Everyone from our general manager, through our management employees, supervisors, and hands-on staff deserve our appreciation and gratitude.
“Like so many people from New York and elsewhere, they stepped forward to respond in their own way to these attacks. I think our people, along with thousands of other ‘ordinary’ people, responded to a devastating situation in an extraordinary way, and deserve our profound thanks and respect.”
Milazzo stated that tenant concerns about health and safety issues and the loss of rental income while renters stayed away created a strong push to expedite the cleanup process.
“There is also a psychological pressure to get back to work and get things back to normal,” he said.
SADNESS REMAINSMilazzo said he wasn’t sure how many customers were lost in the collapse of the WTC. “We obviously lost some customers because there are some who have never come back to their homes in Battery Park,” he said. “The tragedy touched everybody. There is no one who doesn’t know a fireman, policeman, or someone who worked in the WTC.” Siegel was deeply affected.
“The scenes of devastation that we witnessed will stay with me the rest of my life,” he said. “Beyond the devastation of the Ground Zero area itself, many familiar buildings had been smashed and partially destroyed.
“Huge scrap piles turned out to be the twisted wreckage of fire engines, police cars, and ambulances that had been smashed in the towers’ collapse. An entire neighborhood that we had worked to develop from landfill to one of America’s premiere urban areas had become a frozen, almost uninhabitable war zone overnight.”
WORK GOES ONMilazzo knows life must go on.
“People are going to come to New York and people are going to live in New York,” he said. “There are major, full-scale projects going on — residential projects. And this also includes how we are going to rebuild downtown. It’s a vast area to rebuild and it remains viable.
“We are busy. New projects are coming over our desks every day. We have a substantial backlog of residential projects for all of 2002.
“One of our customers called asking for work to begin on a building with 2,000 ptac units and another wanted to know when we can begin installation of another 550 units.
“We were afraid of what might happen to business; but developers have started rethinking right away and are continuing with existing projects and making plans for new buildings.”
Publication date: 12/03/2001