Big collapse at the site of a huge controversy

Behind The News
January 14, 2008 1:40:35 PM PST
The controversy has been just about as huge as the building. It's called the Trump SoHo -- a 46-story building on Spring Street, under construction. Tonight it's under investigation. A load of poured concrete collapsed; the wood support forms couldn't hold it.

One worker has been killed; three injured.

Residents in SoHo have balked at the project because it doesn't "fit" into the neighborhood. The accident will no doubt increase their protests. And in fact tonight they said that "this is a tragedy that never should have happened. This building was illegal and never should have been approved by the City. But the City bent over backwards .... and then developers worked at lightning speed.... This building was already a monument to greed and hubris; now, sadly, it will be a monument to tragedy as well."

Which raises all sorts of questions -- questions we'll ask tonight: was the building rushed through? Was it properly inspected along the way (remember the Deutsche Bank building)?

We'll have the latest on the accident, tonight at 11.

And under the heading -- what took them so long? Westchester County officials will soon begin requiring contractors who pump out septic systems to let the Health Dept. know if septic discharge has leached into the ground. They want to prevent ground and drinking water contamination.

About 40,000 homes in Westchester use septic systems rather than public sewers. Three-quarters of those are within the New York City Watershed.

I'm sorry, they're just starting to do this? Am I alone in my shock?

And we're having a fascinating discussion within the newsroom: when to use the term "elderly?" We used it last week when two men jumped in the water on Long Island and tried to rescue two women. The women were in their mid-60s; so were the men. We referred to them as "elderly." Make that I referred to them that way. I am not that far from landing in my mid-60s; I certainly do not feel elderly ( not that there's anything wrong with being elderly.)

That sparked the discussion. And then a viewer wrote in with this observation: "Do you use 'young' for a 20 to 30 year old person? Why not just say 'in their 60s' or 'in their 70s?' "

A good question. The truth is I often say "young person" when someone's in their 20s.

And Bill Bouyer, our senior executive producer who's one of the smartest guys in the room, asked me the question that tipped the issue for me. He asked how Barbara Walters would feel if I referred to her as elderly.

Barbara is at the top end of her mid 70s, and is as with-it and energetic and hard-working as anyone I know. She'd be furious, is the short answer to Bill's question.

Elderly is so much a state of mind, and it's good we had this discussion to re-discover it.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Jeff Smith (in for Lee Goldberg) with the AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports, including the latest on the Giants' victory that leaves them now vying for the NFC Championship.

I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.