It’s the first anniversary of the Deutsche Bank fire that killed two New York firefighters. In September of last year, the Bloomberg Administration hired high-powered defense lawyer Gary P. Naftalis, who had previously represented Ian Schrager of Studio 54 and former attorney general Edwin Meese, to handle legal actions pertaining to the blaze in the disused building, which was critically damaged in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
It looks as if Naftalis may soon have his work cut out for him, as the New York Times reports that after nine months of grand jury hearings, Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau may be looking to bring a negligence case against the City.
The Times says that “according to people briefed on the case,” investigators believe lack of inspections in and around the site “may have directly contributed to the deaths of the two firefighters last Aug. 18.”
The building was undergoing decontamination for toxic materials preparatory to demolition at the time of the fire, and was littered with safety hazards, including “stairwells sealed with heavy plywood and thick plastic sheeting, another measure to prevent toxic materials from escaping,” the Times reports. Also, the standpipe on which the Fire Department relied to pump water into the Bank “was useless, having been dismantled months earlier,” delaying water delivery by an hour.
The families of the two critically injured firefighters, Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, have already filed related suits: an August 15 Downtown Express story reports that Joseph Graffagnino is suing the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, “the city, the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, contractor Bovis Lend Lease and subcontractor John Galt Corp.”
“People should go to jail for this,” Graffagnino Sr. told the Express. “Hitting a millionaire with a fine is [B.S.]. You were [behind] this, you could have stopped it. You should pay.”