The Builder Of The Collapsed Condo Is Dead-- What About The Politicians Who Took His Bribes?

I was only in Trump Tower in New York City once-- and reluctantly. A friend dragged me there for a meeting. I was very agitated the whole time because I knew it is a badly constructed building that will collapse at some point. In his book, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, Wayne Barrett wrote that "Trump didn't just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with [Fat Anthony] Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn... at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business." Trump contends that he had "had no choice" but to work with "concrete guys who are mobbed up." As soon as I heard about the Surfside catastrophe in Miami, I thought of shady builders like Trump cutting costs. Is that what happened though?

A week ago, a team of NY Times writers noted that 3 years before the collapse "a consultant found alarming evidence of 'major structural damage' to the concrete slab below the pool deck and 'abundant' cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage under the 13-story building. The engineer’s report helped shape plans for a multimillion-dollar repair project that was set to get underway soon-- more than two and a half years after the building managers were warned-- but the building suffered a catastrophic collapse in the middle of the night on Thursday, crushing sleeping residents in a massive heap of debris."

Yesterday, another team of Times writers did a more thorough report with more recently uncovered information. "Critical places near the base of the building," they wrote, "appeared to use less steel reinforcement than called for in the project’s original design drawings. The observation is the first detail to emerge pointing to a potential problem in the quality of construction of the 13-story condo tower in Surfside, Florida., that collapsed last month, killing at least 27 and leaving up to 118 still unaccounted for... [There are] signs that the amount of steel used to connect concrete slabs below a parking deck to the building’s vertical columns might be less than what the project’s initial plans specified."

They explained that "Concrete can support tall buildings only when it is bolstered with steel reinforcement. Concrete is a strong material 'in compression,' as engineers put it-- in supporting weight above it, for example. But it is far less effective 'in tension,' or holding things together when forces would tend to pull the concrete apart. Embedding steel adds that essential tensile strength, and sound design calculations, backed up by building codes, specify how much steel is needed, depending on the type, size and other features of a building... The unexpectedly low amount of rebar visible after the collapse of the parking slab was not the only potential problem with steel reinforcement that engineers noticed in their initial reviews. Dawn Lehman, a professor of structural engineering at the University of Washington, noted that rebar could be seen dangling from parts of the remaining structure, pulled clean from the concrete. She said that could indicate that in some places, the concrete was damaged and the steel might not have had a sufficient bond with the concrete. This could have several explanations, she said, including corrosion, concrete deterioration, shear damage to the concrete or the use of a type of reinforcing rebar with weaker bonding properties.

The developer, now dead, was Nathan Reiber, a crooked Polish immigrant to Canada who retired to Florida in the 1970s and reinvented himself as a real estate mogul. The Miami Herald reported last week that Reiber and his partners "had been charged with tax evasion for, among other things, skimming cash from laundry businesses, the Washington Post reported. (Fifteen years later, he pleaded guilty and paid a $60,000 fine.) In Florida, Reiber started buying and selling existing multifamily buildings, often with partners from Canada, and developing his own from scratch." He was well-known for bribing politicians when his construction projects violated building codes. Like with almost all rich, successful career criminals, the media always referred to Reiber as a "philanthropist" instead of a predator.