By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The trial of three construction managers charged with killing a pair of firefighters by knowingly leaving the Deutsche Bank building construction site without a water supply will begin next month, a judge said Friday.
Asbestos abatement manager Mitchell Alvo, 58, site safety manager Jeffrey Melofchik, 48, and foreman Salvatore DePaola, 56, all workers for the John Galt construction company, will face manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges.
They allegedly failed to fix a broken standpipe, leaving firefighters battling a blaze at the Deutsche Bank building without a water supply on Aug. 18, 2007.
The firefighters, Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, perished at the hazard-ridden Deustche Bank building, at 130 Liberty St., which was heavily damaged on 9/11. They died of smoke inhalation while responding to the fire on the 14th Floor.
After years of delays, during a pre-trial conference Friday, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Rena Uviller set a trial date of March 21.
During the public portion of the conference, Uviller said she'd limit the number of witnesses that would be presented at what is expected to be a four-month trial.
"Let me just say this: we all have to get a grip. This is going to be a long trial and there's not going to be three to four hundred witnesses in this case," she said, before the proceeding went private.
"There is just no way I will be presiding at a trial that has that many witnesses. Period," the judge added.
Prosecutors have said defendants "were aware of the prevailing hazardous conditions" and "they were aware of the critical importance of a functioning standpipe as the only source of water in the event of a fire," according to past court papers.
Defense lawyers say the site had been approved by various city agencies, and that the tragedy that befell the FDNY responders was not the fault of their clients.