Federal buildings in lower Manhattan declared safe

The General Services Administration has inspected federal buildings near the site of New York's destroyed World Trade Center and determined they are safe to be used again, according to a statement on the agency's Web site and a Pittsburgh architect whose firm was contracted by GSA to ensure the structures' safety.

Dick Northway, a principal with Perkins Eastman Architects, said GSA officials in New York called employees of his firm's offices there Thursday and asked them to assess the structural integrity of buildings housing federal offices that were closed after Tuesday's attacks. The buildings are about a half mile from the World Trade Center, Northway said.

While the buildings appear safe, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has yet to reopen lower Manhattan, so federal agencies in the area surrounding the collapsed World Trade Center buildings have been forced to temporarily relocate to facilities in other parts of the city.

Two GSA-leased facilities in the World Trade Center complex, Buildings No. 6 and No. 7, which were located about 80 yards from the twin towers, were damaged beyond repair as a result of the collapse of the towers. The 2,800 federal employees who worked in those buildings must be permanently relocated to new offices.

Northway said the collapse of the towers and surrounding buildings caused only minimal damage to the half dozen other federal buildings still closed by GSA as of yesterday. The government's offices were far enough away from the catastrophe that only superficial damage resulted, he said.

Inspectors checked for broken windows, cracks on the exteriors of the buildings and fissures in the ceilings and floors inside. They found no cause for alarm, Northway said. He believes agencies will move back into the buildings sometime next week.

GSA concurred with Northway's assessment, stating on its Web site that "engineering analysis showed all the buildings are structurally sound." GSA declined to comment further on its activities in New York.

Northway added that even though a building can be quite some distance from a disaster site, debris can collect on its roof and put the structure in jeopardy. But he said the debris that collected on the federal buildings his firm inspected wasn't enough to pose a hazard.

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