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Removal of building damaged on 9/11 nears completion

The contaminated bank tower stood shrouded in black netting for years over ground zero, filled with toxic dust and the remains of 9/1 1 victims. It stayed where it was, not coming down even as the towers at the World Trade Center site slowly began to rise.

Nearly a decade after the trade center's south tower fell into it, the building with a sad history of legal and regulatory fights, multiple accidents and a blaze that killed two firefighters will finally be gone. The demise of the 41-story former Deutsche Bank building, just south of ground zero, is at least as welcome to its neighbors as the construction of new trade center towers.

"I love having the light," said Mary Perillo, whose eighth-floor kitchen window overlooks the busy work site where the steel framework of the Deutsche Bank building is being disassembled. "I love having that black monolith out of my face."

The bank tower -- first slated for deconstruction in 2005, when a government agency bought it to end an impasse over who would pay to take it down -- is down to two stories above street level. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency that oversaw the $300 million dismantling, said it will be completely removed in a little over a week.

"You're talking about the end of an era," said Kirk Raymond of Windsor, Ont., gazing at what's left of the building on a visit to the trade center site. "You're erasing the last signs of something pretty terrible."

The delicate work of dismantling a skyscraper -- referred to by its street address, 130 Liberty -- is visible from surrounding buildings and from the street.

Less than an hour after a hijacked jet slammed into it on Sept. 11, 2001, the trade center's south tower collapsed, tearing a 15-story gash in the Deutsche Bank building. Perillo said a piece of the destroyed tower was embedded in its neighbor "like a fork in a piece of cake."

The building was shrouded in black as Deutsche Bank and its insurers fought over whether to raze it or clean it.

To resolve the dispute, the LMDC, the city-state agency created to oversee the rebuilding of the trade center area, agreed to buy the building for $90 million, clean it and tear it down.

Accidents plagued the deconstruction. In May 2007, a 22-foot pipe fell from the building and crashed into the firehouse next door, injuring two firefighters.

Three months later, a construction worker's discarded cigarette sparked a fire that tore through several stories. Firefighters faced hazards including deactivated sprinklers, stairwells that had been blocked to contain toxic debris and a broken standpipe, a crucial water conduit like a fire hydrant.

Firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino were trapped on the burning 14th floor and died of smoke inhalation on Aug. 18, 2007.

Prosecutors investigated agencies involved and chastised the city for failing to regularly inspect the tower and make sure its dismantling was safe.

The fire delayed the cleanup and dismantling for a year. Removal of toxic debris started in 2008, and deconstruction resumed in late 2009.

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