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After bomb, industry confronts tenant fears.

In the wake of the Twin Towers bombing, real estate industry groups are working closely with city officials, police and fire department personnel to reassure tenants that city buildings are the safe.

Mere hours after the bombing, Building Owners & Managers Association New York's president, Peter DiCapua, convened a task force to ensure misinformation on building safety would not be broadcast. Officials at the Washington office had been dismayed to hear incorrect items being reported and called to alert him.

DiCapua said the group became immediately proactive and members of the task force were interviewed on television to describe how commercial buildings are staffed and trained and how they inform tenants.

With DiCapua, who is also vice president of Atco Properties, as its chair, task force members include: Edward Riguardi, president Koeppel Tenet & Riguardi; John Belt CPM, former president of BOMA, and president 58-64 40th Street Corp; Allan Bisk, senior vice president Rose Associates; John Van Deusen, president John Van Deusen & Associates; Jerald Lieberman, senior vice president property administration Olympia & York; and Tom Baxter, vice president Sylvan Lawrence.

The Port Authority is "getting a bad rap" by not being required to follow the city code, DiCapua said. "They do follow the National Fire Protection Association's reference standard, he noted.

"There were five deaths and those took place very soon after the explosion," DiCapua continued. "Subsequent to that, 50,000 exited the buildings without the life safety systems and yet they were evacuated without any loss of life. That is amazing and bodes well for the design of the building."

The BOMA task force has offered themselves as a resource "of any which way we can" to the Port Authority, DiCapua said, and are making certain that the general public is informed that the building staffs are well trained and the buildings are safe.

When it became evident the problem was caused by an explosive, Rockefeller Center's vice president of protection and public services, Michael McNulty, said they went into a high state of alert at the 750-car capacity public garage as well as the trucking facility which accommodates 450 vehicles.

"The idea was to button up those facilities so a vehicle does not get in," he explained. "If the threat were of a different variety we would have adjusted accordingly."

All vehicles already in place in the garages were inspected as were subsequent vehicles. Delivery drivers without proper documentation were turned away, as were drivers unwilling to have their vehicle searched. One important element, McNulty said, was to prepare a brief advisory given to drivers entering the facility that the searches were being conducted for their safety. "This would immediately appeal to the sense of reason to the person coming in," he explained.

By Saturday morning, at the request of the police and through the Area Police Private Security Liaison (APPL) group, several city properties became part of a network to provide 24-hour communications capability and places for the dissemination of activities, advisories and bulletins.

On Monday morning, more than 350 members of the APPL network met and were briefed on security concerns by the mayor and police commissioner and advised that building staffs and tenants should be reviewing emergency procedures.

This network has been in place since 1986, said steering committee member McNulty. It was designed to enhance the relationship between private and public law enforcement, he said. Additionally, many of the security professionals are fire safety directors and responsible for that aspect of life safety as well.

"Clearly, they have a good network for disseminating information," said Real Estate Board of New York's (REBNY)'s Vice President for Government Affairs Marolyn Davenport who attended the briefing. REBNY is making additional copies of the information available to their membership and are in the process of reprinting their own fire safety brochure.

"While the city's buildings are the safest in the world," Davenport noted, "it is important people know what to do in an emergency."

The REBNY diary also contains summaries of all the fire safety requirements, Davenport advised.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Barry Sullivan, just back from Japan, said he met with and reassured the Japanese ambassador. Borough President Ruth Messinger toured the site after attending the opening of the-,.-Association Center. She was amazed at the extent of the damage, particularly evident looking into the Vista Hotel where sections of the floors and walls in the former ballroom area have been blown away.

And yet, aside from broken glass shattered in the blast, the stability of the towers themselves was evidenced by the relative lack of damage in the lobby of the north tower which shares a wall with the ballroom. She noted the parking structure had to be shored up before repairs could take place.

Messinger was also impressed with the "war room" operations set up in the concourse level restaurant and tenant relocation efforts. "Our public officials have done a remarkable job," agreed Louis J. Coletti, president of the Building Congress. He believes there is now a need to look at where mechanical and electrical systems are placed within buildings with an eye towards spreading them out. The buildings withstood severe damage, he observed-and proved the strength of the Port Authority build ing techniques. "The New York City building code is the strongest in the world," he added.

The Police Department held a briefing Monday morning after the crash to review building security measures.

DiCapua agreed the Port Authority buildings were built safely and the systems were "excellently: installed and manned. "The 100 percent redundancy system was rendered ineffective because of an explosion," he noted. "You can't design protection against that."

"The main theme is that the 900 high rise city commercial buildings are safe," DiCapua concluded, "they continue to be safe, they are manned by well-trained, motivated professional staffs. We had an A grade and are making it an A-plus by making heightened awareness and reacquainting tenants with the procedures."

BOMA NY is taking the organization's leadership position on this issue and will be making a presentation at BOMA's June national workshop.
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Title Annotation:real estate industry works with city officials, police and fire department to reassure tenants of building safety after 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, New York
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 10, 1993
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