By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — A 4-foot steel rod plummeted from the 13th floor of 4 World Trade Center last week and struck a boy walking down Liberty Street, officials revealed at a meeting Monday.
The piece of metal rebar slipped through a tiny gap in the tower's protective enclosure and bounced off the street before hitting the 14-year-old boy's hand about 10:30 a.m. May 2, said Jay Badame, president of Tishman Construction Corp., which is building the skyscraper.
The boy, who was not identified, was treated for a bruised hand at the Engine 10/Ladder 10 firehouse nearby, Badame said. He did not suffer any broken bones or permanent injuries, Badame said.
"We deeply regret this incident," Badame told Community Board 1's World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee Monday night. "We are committed to the best safety practices."
Local residents were unnerved by the accident, which occurred on a busy block of Liberty Street that is often packed with commuters, downtown families and tourists heading to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center.
"I'm concerned," said Laura Fernandez, 45, who lives on Liberty Street across from Tower 4 and has four children. "We're out there every day."
The accident came in the midst of the frenzied Ground Zero celebrations that followed Osama bin Laden's death and occurred just a couple hours before Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a slew of other local officials gathered for a press conference in the base of Tower 4 last week.
Badame said Tishman has put many new safety measures into place following the accident.
The piece of metal fell after a worker who was installing it momentarily placed it on the corner of a platform that protects the edge of the building. There was a small gap between pieces of the protective material that measured no more than 1 1/2 inches, but it was big enough to allow the rebar to slip through, Badame said.
Then, instead of landing in the safety net that surrounds the building, the rod ricocheted off of a piece of metal that supports the net, then went careening toward the street, Badame said.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the accident and did not issue any violations, Badame said. The city Buildings Department does not have jurisdiction over the World Trade Center site, and Badame said he did not know if any city inspectors visited the tower following the accident.
In response to the accident, Tishman retrained workers, implemented additional inspections, installed a plywood liner to fill any gaps in the building's protections and added more netting, Badame said.
"We've learned from the experience," Badame said.
Steel for the future 72-story skyscraper has risen 23 stories so far. The building is scheduled to open in 2013.
Tom Goodkind, a local resident and CB1 member, suggested that Tishman put a sidewalk shed over the south side of Liberty Street to protect people from future falling objects, and Badame said he would look into it.
Tishman also built the new Goldman Sachs tower in Battery Park City, which had several serious accidents, including a metal plate that flew off the hoist and landed in the adjacent ball fields.
Catherine McVay Hughes, chairwoman of CB1's World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee, said she was pleased with Tishman's new safety plan but concerned about the record of accidents.
"We need to make sure it doesn't happen again," Hughes said.