Mike Bloomberg’s worst scandal cost two firefighters their lives. If we lived in a media world in which facts and memories mattered, the nonchalance at the highest levels of the Bloomberg administration about the hazards and warnings at the Deutsche Bank building, where Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino died on August 18, 2007, might cost him his re-election.
Our billionaire mayor will never be tarnished by the traditional pay-to-play and influence-peddling schemes that compromise politicians with ordinary bank accounts. Instead, his defining debacle is a failure of leadership, accountability, and transparency, revealed in one law enforcement report or news story after another, ever since Beddia and Graffagnino succumbed to smoke on the 14th floor of the city’s most toxic building, just 118 feet from where 343 of their brothers perished six years earlier. Even Bloomberg’s Department of Investigations (DOI) found last month, in a report barely noticed by the press, that it was a case of death by official dereliction.
By the time of the fire, city and state officials were so driven by their deal with J.P. Morgan Chase—which had agreed to begin building its new headquarters on the Deutsche site as soon as it was cleared—that they were pushing this unprecedented simultaneous decontamination and demolition project forward as quickly as possible. They did so without proper permits or oversight, determined to complete it before the opt-out 2008 deadlines written into the Morgan contract. Due to the extended delays that followed the fire, however, the deconstruction of the bank building remains unfinished, and Morgan has, for reasons more connected to the economic meltdown than to the Deutsche delays, walked away.
The original $45 million takedown price tag on the Deutsche building has grown by five times. Next year, finally, the blackened 40-story carcass is slated to be gone, nearly a full decade after a 15-floor gash was cut in its side by South Tower debris and it was filled with toxins and remains thrown into the bright morning air on the city’s darkest day. Everything about this project and its fire has been bungled—by one city and three state administrations—yet yesterday’s headlines have become today’s haze, and the role of a mayor celebrated for his competence remains largely unexamined.
Deadly mismanagement cost one mayor his job. Yankel Rosenbaum’s murder in a Crown Heights race riot mishandled by the NYPD finished David Dinkins in 1993, when the media refused to give a culpable administration a pass simply because its breakdowns were two-year-old news. But we are now in an era when media moguls get together to reverse two public referendums in an undisguised effort to keep one of their own in office, a time when the mayor may be the biggest new ad buyer in town. The question now is whether the press will hold accountable a mayor who has refused to hold any of his own appointees accountable for an avoidable disaster.
In the months before August 18, 2007, there were so many fires and accidents at the Deutsche Bank site that a high-powered consultant, URS, reported to state and city officials that the giant construction management firm on the project, Bovis Lend Lease, could “no longer be trusted to ensure building safety,” and that the project was “an accident waiting to happen.” Fifteen days after that alarm, a cigarette butt discarded on the 17th floor sparked a fire that later consumed nine stories. So many firefighters rushed up steps and elevators that 115 were injured, 46 seriously enough to require medical leave.
The docket of pre-fire municipal malfeasance starts with the collapse of inspectional regimes at the fire and buildings departments, which combined to miss a 42-foot breach in the bank building’s water-supplying standpipe for months, leaving firefighters without working hoses for more than an hour in what the Graffagnino family now calls a “death trap.”
Though FDNY regulations require inspections of construction or demolition sites every 15 days, the department never inspected the bank building in the six months of work that preceded the fire. The Department of Buildings (DOB) granted the project a commonplace alteration permit, the kind that is only supposed to be approved when a project “does not change” a building’s use—precisely the opposite of what was planned at the Deutsche site. According to one subsequent law enforcement report, this unusual choice of permit “allowed the building to undergo concurrent abatement and demolition,” a rare and risky venture. Had a demolition permit been required instead, the building would have become the province of the DOB’s demolition experts, literally called the B.E.S.T. team. Instead, “inexperienced inspectors who volunteered for the assignment and never traced the standpipe” were the ones regularly on site, with B.E.S.T. inspectors in a secondary role, the same investigative report concluded.
But the record of miscalculation is not limited to inspectional dysfunction. It extends into the upper reaches at City Hall, where the mayor’s most trusted deputy, Dan Doctoroff, disregarded warnings from DOI commissioner Rose Gill Hearn in favor of the reckless predilections of Bovis, a company that had built the Lexington Avenue headquarters of Bloomberg’s media company and prospered in the Bloomberg administration. Bovis insisted on making a mob-and-accident-scarred firm its prime demolition subcontractor at the Deutsche site, and Doctoroff bowed to the selection over the howls of Gill Hearn. Doctoroff later told the Times that he did it because he was satisfied that sufficient “safeguards” had been put in place to make sure that the controversial subcontractor behaved itself.
The subcontractor, the John Galt Corporation, is now under indictment for manslaughter in the case of Beddia and Graffagnino. Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau found that a “behind-schedule” Galt “decided to shift the project’s focus from cleaning pipes to removing them,” sawing off “the hanging rods that supported the standpipe within inches of ceilings,” causing “a large portion” of it to break free and crash to the ground. According to the District Attorney, the Bovis site safety manager and two top Galt supervisors—one of whom had been specifically objected to by Gill Hearn—”gathered at the foot of the broken standpipe” and decided to cut it up into sections, bagging and discarding it as asbestos-containing material. Though the building “was now defenseless against the threat of significant fire,” Bovis and Galt reported it to no one, said Morgenthau. When the fire hit, the water that Beddia, Graffagnino, and 100 other firefighters needed poured out of the wide-open standpipe into the basement.
In addition to the role of the building’s safety manager in this alleged incident, Bovis replaced its site superintendent after he insisted, prior to the break in the standpipe, that it be pressure-tested. Morgenthau said the new superintendent “proved to be less safety-conscious, and the standpipe was never tested again.” Morgenthau concluded that Bovis prepared “fraudulent” daily checklists that failed to record not only the breach in the standpipe, but also “numerous fires and accidents” that occurred prior to August 2007.
Once the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in Bloomberg and Doctoroff largesse at nearly a half-dozen city agencies, Bovis averted indictment only because it was too big an employer to fail, according to Morgenthau. An agreement executed by Bovis and Morgenthau’s office noted that the D.A. had “determined that it could institute a criminal prosecution” against the company on the same criminally negligent homicide and related charges it brought against Galt.
Beyond these inspection and contracting mistakes, the catalog of fatal failings also includes the fire department’s response the day of the fire, which offered chilling reminders of how little was learned from 9/11. Firefighters once again charged skyward in droves, though this time, there were no possible victims to rescue. A fire chief on the FDNY’s executive staff had written a warning calling for a Deutsche Bank–specific response plan two years before the demolition began, but he and the rest of the department brass failed to develop one tailored to this complex and dangerous site. Instead, the department, from the commissioner on down, behaved as if standard operating procedure was a sufficient response to any incident at the bank, even though, as Morgenthau put it, a project to concurrently clean and clear “a high-rise in a dense residential and commercial neighborhood had never been done before in New York City.”
Bloomberg’s tabloid-celebrated pretense at running a CEO-style government is belied by his response to these failings.
The only supposed culprits punished for the inspection breakdowns are people the mayor does not know or didn’t appoint—line staff at the FDNY and the DOB—while the executives at these agencies, led by Fire Commissioner Nick Scoppetta, have yet to elicit so much as a critical word from him.
In fact, Bloomberg went out of his way to defend Scoppetta when Morgenthau pointed out, in a 32-page report, that the commissioner visited the firehouse next to the Deutsche building three months before the fire and never “inquired as to whether regular inspections were being conducted” at the bank building or “whether a special fire operations plan for this project was in place.” Scoppetta was there that May because a 15-foot pipe fell from the Deutsche site through the roof of the firehouse and injured two firefighters, forcing the then 74-year-old commissioner to climb to the firehouse roof. Morgenthau added that “the failure to inspect”—which, he says, “contributed to the conditions that led to the deaths” of the firefighters—”implicates high-ranking FDNY officials” who “clearly recognized that buildings undergoing construction, demolition, and abatement were extremely dangerous for firefighting operations.”
Bloomberg’s lawyers, according to sources at Morgenthau’s office, pushed unsuccessfully “to delete the Scoppetta language” from the report. The day after it was released, only seven months ago, Bloomberg said, “You just can’t take it all the way to the top and always go fire the top guy.” He insisted that whatever went wrong had occurred at another “level,” consistent with Scoppetta’s decision this June to discipline up to seven fire chiefs, none of whom were part of his inner circle. Scoppetta, who ran the Children’s Services agency under Rudy Giuliani, is in his eighth year as Bloomberg’s fire commissioner, the longest-tenured in half a century.
Even the DOI, while focusing favorably on the post-fire reforms that Scoppetta introduced, quietly took him apart. Its June report, which drew only puny stories in two city dailies, noted that “after the fire,” Scoppetta “became heavily involved with inspections,” adding that what was missing “at each and every level within the chain of command” before Deutsche was an effort to “ensure” that “the rules” requiring inspections of construction and demolition projects every 15 days were “being followed.” The report disparaged “the executive team”—including Scoppetta and his three top chiefs—finding that all four were “unaware of, or did not address noncompliance with, the 15-Day Rule,” charging that “the importance” of the rule was not “reinforced to the lower ranks.”
The DOI also blasted “a culture of widespread disregard of the 15-Day Rule,” and said it was violated “in commands throughout the Department.” That makes it impossible to contend, as Scoppetta and the mayor did, that the FDNY’s borough, division, and lower-level chiefs overseeing the bank building did anything out of the ordinary. In fact, when Scoppetta finally issued reprimands against them a few days ago, the charges placed in their file made no reference to any specific failure to inspect the Deutsche building, instead faulting them for general inspection shortcomings.
The reprimands, which will be removed from the files of these chiefs in a year and are among the least punitive forms of administrative discipline, implicitly make the case against Scoppetta and his top brass. They could not press tougher charges against the chiefs, targeting failings at Deutsche, without exposing—at any ensuing administrative trial—their own failure to ever issue any orders or directives compelling compliance with the inspection rules. In fact, the DOI report had to rely repeatedly on the promotional exams that chiefs take as the only notice they ever had to the existence of the 15-Day Rule, a thin reed indeed, since exam preparation covers multiple volumes of department regulations. (Is lawyer Scoppetta responsible for recalling everything he learned for the bar exam?)
Frank Gribbon, the FDNY’s spokesman, conceded in a Voice interview that Scoppetta and his top staff had said “nothing about the 15-Day Rule” in any of their regular department orders prior to the fire. He confirmed that William Siegel—the chief whose detailed 2005 memo urging a specific response plan and weekly surveillances for the Deutsche Bank site was used to justify some of the disciplinary actions—had actually been promoted to Scoppetta’s cabinet by the time the demolition began in early 2007. Siegel did not, to Gribbon’s knowledge, ever mention his own concerns about the site in Scoppetta’s weekly executive sessions. That suggests that, at the highest levels in the department, even the two-star chief who’d written the book on the bank building was asleep at the switch. (Siegel, who has since retired, declined to answer questions when reached at his home.)
Gribbon added that the department was not going to investigate any managerial mistakes made during the fire response, and refused to answer questions about whether it believed any had occurred, despite critics inside and outside of the department who contend that so many firefighters were dispatched without water or purpose that it was fortunate only two were lost. He maintained that “the issue,” when Scoppetta went to the firehouse next to the bank, was “protecting the firehouse,” and that Scoppetta made Bovis “construct a platform” and “considered” pulling the firefighters out during the demolition, never focusing on inspecting the actual cause of the accident.
Asked if there was any indication, after the Morgenthau and DOI reports, that the mayor was contemplating any actions against Scoppetta or the rest of the executive team, Gribbon said simply, “No.” Asked if the mayor was “considering any actions against executives” in the FDNY or DOB, Bloomberg press secretary Stu Loeser sent an e-mail to the Voice recounting instead the disciplinary decisions those executives have taken against lower level staff.
The buildings commissioner at the time of the Deutsche breakdowns was Patricia Lancaster, the first Bloomberg department head to be forced from office. Lancaster’s departure in late April 2008, eight months after the fire, occurred the day after she testified at a City Council hearing that the DOB had mistakenly issued permits for an East-side building where a crane collapsed, killing seven people and injuring 24 others. Her ouster was never said to have had anything to do with the fire-connected blunders of her department. Though the mayor acknowledged when Lancaster quit that he didn’t “think anybody should be fully satisfied with the DOB’s performance,” he moved immediately to replace her with first deputy Robert LiMandri.
Neither Morgenthau’s nor the DOI’s report indicate if either Lancaster or LiMandri was aware of any of the department mistakes in the lead-up to the fire—including the failure to ever do an inspection in the basement. Nor do the reports deal with the question of whether these top executives should have been directly involved in so high-profile a project, if they contended they weren’t. A DOI spokeswoman told the Voice that it did not comment on the role of top DOB officials because that “would have been a judgment call,” and all DOI was requested by the mayor’s office to examine was whether city officials had violated or failed to enforce “any rules” in connection with the fire.
An e-mail to the Voice from the DOB indicated that LiMandri “was aware of the decision” to issue alteration rather than demolition permits “and did not object,” observing that, nonetheless, “no investigation has raised any questions about Commissioner LiMandri’s role.” In fact, without naming LiMandri or Lancaster, the DOI criticized the issuance of an alteration permit and concluded that “regardless of the type of permit issued to a contractor, the DOB should not permit projects to undergo demolition until the abatement process is fully completed,” precisely what the DOB is now doing on the site. The FDNY’s 176-page report on the fire similarly pointed out in the second paragraph of the first page that “no demolition permit was filed or issued,” noting that, instead, the DOB issued alteration permits—a point the FDNY reiterated later in the assessment.
Loeser insists that “the issuance of alteration permits had no bearing on the level” of DOB oversight, a contention that is contrary to Morgenthau’s finding that “inexperienced” inspectors, rather than B.E.S.T. inspectors, wound up in charge, as a direct consequence of the absence of a demolition permit. The DOB insists that it took “the unprecedented step of dedicating a permanent team of inspectors to the site,” meaning it “received greater attention” than any other construction site in the city. That’s a quantity-over-quality argument, since the DOI found that none of the DOB’s inspectors assigned to the site “had any experience on site safety demolition projects,” and one department supervisor is quoted as concluding that the inspectors examining the standpipe “really did not know what they are looking at.”
LiMandri actually promoted Tom Connors, the Manhattan inspection manager, and named Chris Santulli, the Manhattan commissioner, to a citywide post—after both had been faulted by the DOI for “no follow-up to ensure that the B.E.S.T. Squad was training” the inspectors actually monitoring the site. Though Connors “never told” the inspectors “what to inspect at the site” or provided them “with any type of formal training,” LiMandri elevated him around the first anniversary of the fire to Executive Director of Construction Site Safety. Last October, LiMandri named Santulli the acting assistant commissioner of engineering and safety operations, and it was Santulli who appeared at a January 2009 City Council hearing to offer assurances about how well the Deutsche project was currently proceeding.
Though Connors was a featured speaker at a DOB-sponsored forum for Construction Safety Week in April, and both Santulli and Connors appeared with LiMandri at a similar event hosted by the Building Trade Employers Association in November, they both finally got letters of reprimand placed in their file a couple of weeks ago. The reprimands (without demotions) were issued three weeks after the Voice began asking questions about whether they’d be disciplined at all. Connors has received a $15,052 raise since the fire, while Santulli is still at the same $138,403 level. (Both were included in the citywide managerial salary hikes released by the mayor the same day that the reprimand letters were placed in their files. The raises they received tallied a combined $19,944.)
Beyond the mild and late letters on Santulli and Connors, Robert Iulo, who took over the inspection unit at the Deutsche site shortly before the fire, is the only DOB employee to face formal departmental charges. Iulo is accused in the DOI report of killing a stop-work request from one of the inspectors, who observed a problem with the standpipe unassociated with the basement breach. The inspector testified that, two months before the fire, he reported this standpipe problem to Iulo, as well as to the same Bovis manager ultimately charged with participating in the cover-up of the breach. The inspector wanted the pipe tested immediately, but Iulo blocked a pressurized test and allegedly instructed the inspector not to include his concerns in his report. Of course, a stop-work order would have meant delays no one wanted, and the Bovis manager, if his indictment is accurate, knew that the pipe would fail a test, leading to a prolonged stoppage of the project.
Throughout this period, the DOB reported to Dan Doctoroff, the deputy mayor who also headed the eight-member city delegation on the 16-member board of the state’s Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the entity that bought the bank building from Deutsche and hired Bovis to tear it down. None of the investigative reports examine Doctoroff’s role, if any, in the DOB’s alteration permit, which exempted LMDC from the requirement that abatement precede demolition, or the patchwork inspections, which fast-tracked the project. He was, however, the only city official with a heavy hand at both agencies. One source involved with the probe at Morgenthau’s office said Doctoroff was “the guy pushing and pushing and pushing” to get the project “moving forward,” and that he “didn’t bother himself with the details.”
Doctoroff attended the LMDC meetings in July and August of 2005, when the contracts with Bovis and a Galt-tied subcontractor named Safeway were approved. He was the mayor’s representative to LMDC, but didn’t actually join its board until a couple of months later. Though he didn’t hesitate to raise objections to matters on the agenda before he became a board member, including at the August meeting, he said nothing about the two contracts for the Deutsche project. The Bloomberg administration had distanced itself from LMDC as part of a broader power-sharing arrangement with Governor Pataki, but just as the bank project got under way, it aggressively threw itself into the LMDC mix. The Times said the administration played a key role in determining “who was to do the work” at the Deutsche site. Doctoroff became so personally involved that he put two of his own aides on the board as well.
Even though Safeway was soon dropped—in part for violations it received that summer in connection with the collapse of a supermarket it was demolishing, injuring 10 people—Doctoroff has conceded that, in February 2006, after joining the board, he signed off on two Bovis deals with Galt, which the DOI branded “a reincarnation” of Safeway. He apparently found Bovis’s pitch for Galt—which won a $58 million contract covering the abatement and demolition of the building—more persuasive than the DOI’s 10-page January 2006 memo blasting the company. “Investigators felt that their warnings had been ignored,” the Times later noted. The DOI told the Voice that it “made its objections well known,” but the spokeswoman said she “would not comment” on the agency’s interactions “with the mayor’s office.”
A second DOI letter to LMDC that April called Galt’s hiring of ex-Safeway executives—specifying the person subsequently charged in the bagging of the broken standpipe—”shocking and disturbing.” The letter branded one of Doctoroff’s “safeguards,” namely that the Galt/Safeway executives had to cooperate with investigators, “a disingenuous fig leaf intended to put the imprimatur of the DOI on your arrangement.” Another Doctoroff “safeguard” supposedly made sure that Galt did not “funnel money back to Safeway,” a charge that Morgenthau is investigating now. “Once Galt and Bovis” agreed to these “stipulations,” Doctoroff said after the fire, he and the rest of the city members “voted to approve the contract amendment to Bovis” that okayed Galt.
The canard later invoked by the mayor himself—that “there was only one contractor willing to work on taking down the building”—is contradicted by the DOI’s April letter. Robert Roach, chief of staff to the DOI commissioner, said that the agency had provided “the names of several demolition contractors” that the state and city had “previously used.” LMDC told the DOI that it “found these alternative contractors too expensive,” and Roach presciently replied, “New York City has a policy of hiring only the lowest responsible bidder, in part because non-responsible contractors, such as Safeway and its officers, frequently cost the City more in the long run by virtue of delays and mistakes.”
This was hardly the only time Doctoroff sided with Bovis on the project. The company came back to the board four times for contract increases, and Doctoroff and the city team backed every boost. Indeed, the mayor’s only known personal intervention in the five-year effort to take down the building occurred days after Eliot Spitzer became governor in January 2007. Bloomberg and Doctoroff hosted a cozy session at Gracie Mansion with Spitzer, attempting to add $38 million to the public bill due to Bovis, Galt and others on the project. Though it was already known that a Galt director had been fingered at the trial of John Gotti Jr. as an “associate” of the Gambino crime family, a company executive sat confidently through the mansion meeting, having prompted it by pulling workers off the site. Doctoroff declared afterward, “I believe we have solved our problem.”
A state official familiar with Doctoroff’s disposition toward Bovis said he believed they had “a special relationship,” adding that the Bloomberg administration “had a preference for them, was comfortable with them.” Asked for an example of that, the official said that, up to the mansion negotiations, LMDC, with Doctoroff’s support, “gave Bovis the increases they asked for” without conditions. The Spitzer team took the “We’ll advance the money now and litigate later” position, with the understanding that LMDC might seek to recoup some of the payment. The state and the city made it clear that Bovis and Galt would be financially penalized if they failed to meet a year-end deadline, a commitment they made just months before the fire, feeding their recklessness. The negotiations with Morgan to do its linchpin downtown revival tower on the bank site, with Doctoroff at the helm, peaked in the same time frame.
Doctoroff now sits in the Bloomberg LP headquarters that Bovis built during the first few years of the mayor’s administration. The mayor held his favorite deputy so accountable for the Deutsche Bank screw-ups that, five months after the fire, Doctoroff became president of the $5-billion-a-year company Bloomberg almost entirely owns. A Bloomberg LP spokeswoman says that the company did not select Bovis to build the headquarters (the developer did). But a tenant like Bloomberg LP, whose company occupies virtually all of the office space in the mixed-use tower and participated in every detail of the design, undoubtedly developed ties to Bovis during the project. Alan Gerson, the City Council member from Lower Manhattan who chairs the committee that monitors LMDC, says that “without question,” he believes Bovis got “favored treatment” from the city, especially at the Deutsche site.
Though Bovis had a track record with the city before Bloomberg became mayor, it prospered even more once he took office. In 2003, the Doctoroff-run NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) picked Bovis as one of its three construction managers on projects, awarding it $75 million in jobs so far, and renewing the contract without bids three times. Similarly, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS)—from where one official, who asked not to be identified, said that Bovis was seen as “a preferred contractor prior to the fire”—selected Bovis twice as the agency’s construction manager for its work downtown, where most of the city-owned office buildings that the DCAS manages are located. Bovis is still performing many jobs awarded under the prior EDC and DCAS agreements that will produce millions more in revenue.
In the days immediately after the fire, the mayor said he wanted answers about the city’s failings. “We will not stop until we get them,” he promised. He repeated the vow to the Graffagnino family at the funeral: “We’re going to get those answers, and those answers will be followed by actions.” When he and Scoppetta announced nine days after the fire that three chiefs would be relieved of their commands, he said the actions were “strictly preliminary” and predicted they “could wind up being the least of the actions we will take.” They actually turned out to be the city’s toughest disciplinary decisions, as the recent reprimands of the same three chiefs, and four others, were a retreat from the 2007 threats.
Even as Bloomberg was making these public promises, his top lawyer, corporation counsel Michael Cardozo, was calling Morgenthau personally and telling him that “the mayor was taken aback” that the district attorney had told reporters he was investigating the fire. Cardozo’s call, according to two sources familiar with it, came within hours of Morgenthau making his announcement. “Tell the mayor that I’m taken aback that he’s taken aback,” said the legendary D.A., who then had to face what sources called many “contentious” dealings with attorneys in Cardozo’s office. (One of the sources recalled Cardozo using a synonym for “taken aback.”) Firefighters scheduled to appear at Morgenthau’s office for questioning at 10 one morning were summoned to Cardozo’s office at 8 for a briefing, but refused to show.
Asked about this exchange, as well as the attempts by other attorneys representing the city to get Morgenthau’s office to remove language from his report criticizing Scoppetta, Cardozo’s spokeswoman said, “We will not comment on what specifically may have been discussed in conversations between the city and the District Attorney’s office.” Loeser also refused to discuss the conversations, “other than to say that we defended the city’s actions.”
Bloomberg faced—at that moment, and for the next year and a half—a possible career-killing indictment. Morgenthau was openly considering an unprecedented indictment of the city for criminally negligent homicide. The exchanges with Morgenthau’s office got so difficult that Bloomberg wound up hiring a respected criminal attorney, Gary Naftalis, to represent the city, and Cardozo’s office paid Naftalis’s firm $4.5 million in a single year. Cardozo is in the process even now of extending the contract and raising the price to $6 million, even though Morgenthau announced last December that he would not indict the city. Cardozo’s office says that Naftalis is advising the city in its fight against the Beddia and Graffagnino families and in any other civil litigation.
When Morgenthau decided not to charge the Bloomberg administration, he made it clear that it wasn’t for lack of evidence. He likened any attempt to charge the city to “tilting at windmills,” citing its “sovereign immunity” as an insuperable legal obstacle.
Fortunately for Bloomberg, the trials of Galt and the three employees indicted for the deaths of the firefighters will not start until after the election, when defense attorneys plan to point the finger at the city in every way. Stu Loeser and Dan Doctoroff are refusing even now to answer any questions about the hiring of Galt, using Morgenthau’s continuing investigation as their excuse. Loeser won’t even say what the DOI warned city officials—including the mayor himself—about Galt, much less whether Bloomberg believes Doctoroff should have heeded the DOI and objected to its retention.
Cas Holloway, the top Bloomberg adviser on the Deutsche job and one of his current appointees to the LMDC board, appeared at a City Council hearing weeks after Morgenthau closed the fire case, and joined Bovis in refusing to answer questions about it. “We’re not prepared to speak to every finding” in Morgenthau’s report, Holloway said, refusing, in fact, to address any of them. “What we really want to talk about is what is happening at the site now.” Morgenthau told the Voice that his office “certainly didn’t tell anyone” not to answer public questions about the Deutsche debacle. Gerson, the Council member who chaired the hearing, called the city and Bovis’s refusals “stonewalling.”
The caged lion inside Bloomberg’s administration, the DOI’s Gill Hearn, wasn’t asked by City Hall to look at Doctoroff’s embrace of Bovis and Galt, but at the line staff at fire and buildings. She couldn’t resist pointing out in her press release five weeks ago that the city’s “inspectional forces” were “no match for the contractors’ cavalier disregard for public safety,” noting in the final paragraph of the 35-page report that Galt “should never have had this project in the first place.”
No one in the New York press printed that conclusion. Bloomberg’s onetime closest aide, who now runs his company, approved a contractor under indictment for killing two firefighters; Bloomberg’s own top investigator says categorically that the contract should never have been awarded; and not one news outlet in New York thinks it’s a story. Similarly, although every city paper published penetrating stories in the aftermath of the fire, not one quoted the DOI’s more recent searing language about Scoppetta’s executive team or cited the issues that the DOI implicitly raised about the DOB’s top management. It’s as if a curtain has been drawn on the mayoral election, and the only show that will go on is the one Mike buys on the air.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2009