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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 8:33 am    Post subject: THE PORT AUTHORITY WINS AGAIN 1/25 Reply with quote

To All,

As you all must know by now construction is set to begin at Ground Zero. The Port Authority has stated that they will have over 1,000 workers on the job by the end of the year working on the Path Station and other projects including the World Trade Center Memorial. They will do this and once again be exempt from New York City Fire and Building Codes. Despite our efforts not one elected official has stood up to the PA and they are like the 1,000 pound gorilla continuing to do whatever they want. Think back now to our very first meetings after 9/11 when all the politicians stated that they would do everything in their power to assure that nothing like this will ever again. Remember the Port Authority swearing that nothing would ever be built on the footprints and Pataki backing up their vow. Well here we are four and a half years later and despite Sally Regenhard’s tireless efforts and despite our repeated pleas to Congress, the Governor, the Mayor and the City Council absolutely nothing has been done to keep the Port Authority in check. They will continue to do whatever they want and our elected officials continue to do nothing. I guess four and a half years is the statute of limitations on promises. Just remember it was only eight years between the first and second attacks on the World Trade Center. Pray to God that our national security is better this time around because it is quite apparent that if the Port Authority or anyone else involved with the new construction was concerned not a beam would be put in place until they agreed to build by our codes. Below please find an Op Ed that was sent to our local papers on June 9 and of course never printed. It was also shared with all our local elected officials. I am sorry if I sound like a broken record but I for one will continue to voice my opinion as I have nearly 3,000 reasons to do so.


To All,

The following was sent to the NY Times OP Ed Page. I am sharing it with you as I don’t expect it to be printed. This is how I feel.


I am writing to clear up a few inaccuracies that have appeared this week concerning the rebuilding at Ground Zero. On Tuesday Sally Regenhard, J.C. Calderon and myself attended the City Council Hearing into the safety of the Freedom Tower.
Prior to our testimony Deputy Chief Colgan spoke on behalf of the NYPD. He stated that his office had raised concerns about the design of the Freedom Tower and its proximity to the West Side Highway. He stated that they had made the developers aware of these concerns in 2003 when the NYPD has been shown preliminary designs. In August 2004 The Department wrote the Port Authority saying the designs were flawed. Finally last month Governor Pataki ordered the design changed to reflect these concerns.

Deputy Chief Colgan was very eloquent and had a firm grasp of what should be done to make whatever is built at Ground Zero secure. If I was putting up a building I would definitely heed his advice. Our problem begins with his statement that he feels that the NYPD now has a full and equal voice in the design of the Freedom Tower. While this may be true to a certain extent the fact still remains that the Port Authority is not legally bound to listen to anything that the NYPD, the FDNY or the NYC Buildings Department has to say. Because they are the Port Authority, created by an act of Congress, they do not even have to answer to Governor Pataki.

Let me give you some history. Concerns with the Freedom Tower are not new, they are the same concerns that the Skyscraper Safety Campaign has been raising for the last four years. Many of us feel that even though the collapse of the Twin Towers could not have been prevented once the planes hit, the time it took them to fall was based on their design and construction. We feel that had they been built to NYC Building and Fire codes they would have stood longer after the attack allowing for more people to escape. Here are a few points to ponder.

In order to make the Towers more attractive to occupants the original design attempted to give almost every office window space. In order to accomplish this all stairways and elevators were located in the center of the building. Once the planes hit anyone located above the impact area had no way to escape. There were no alternate stairwells besides the ones in the center of the buildings. More window offices more high priced tenants more money.

In order to provide more wide open space many of the interior columns were removed from the design. More floor space, more office space more money.
The fireproofing that was used on many of the steel beams had not gone through the testing process that is required in the NYC Fire Code. As you know a great deal has been made about how the fireproofing in the Towers was a possible cause for the quickness of the collapse.

Finally do you realize that there were no sprinkler systems installed at the World Trade Center when it was constructed, so much for stricter codes.

These concerns are not new. As a matter of fact many of them were raised thirty years ago when the Towers were built. It appears to me that we are fooling ourselves if we think things will be any different this time around. For the past 3 years the PA has been stating that there codes are stricter than the NYC codes. On numerous occasions we have asked to see copy of their codes so as to compare them to the NYC codes but to date we have not been granted that privilege.

While we applaud the actions of the City Council in their attempt to improve the NYC codes we fail to see how this will have any impact on the rebuilding at Ground Zero. The Port Authority is not bound to abide by any of our codes. We have no power to enforce these codes and we have no legal right to go after them if they violate our codes.

The bottom line is that unless we get the PA give up this exemption we do not have a leg to stand on. I have asked the City Council to at least assist us in getting a copy of the Port Authority’s building and fire codes. We have also asked for them to look into the fact that the WTC was privatized in 2001 and that it is the only Authority that we know of that has entered into the business of commercial real estate. Since the Port Authority was created to manage our bridges, tunnels and airports we feel that they have overstepped their authority here. We hope that we can use these facts to help us get them to abide by our codes.

The bottom line is as always money. Stricter codes mean higher costs. We think that this way of thinking cannot continue as the costs in human life cannot be compared to dollars and cents.

Below is a line from a Port Authority Press Release

Port Authority Executive Director Neil D. Levin said, “As the Port Authority enters into this historic Agreement, it is important to note that the agency will continue to play a significant role in the management of the World Trade Center. For instance, the agency will retain its oversight of the complex’s building, fire, environmental and health codes and the integrity of its physical plant. We will continue to protect this outstanding public asset so that it can continue to flourish.”

This Press Release is from July 24, 2001 less then 2 months prior to 9/11. Mr. Levin never got to see this become a reality as he was one of the nearly 3,000 victims that never made it out of the Towers on 9/11.

We feel that the Port Authority has not lived up to their obligation and to allow them to do it again would be a travesty. For the past four years the Port Authority, the LMDC and the agents of New York City have constantly left us out of the development of Ground Zero. Anyone that did not fit the mold of what the PA or the LMDC wanted was not welcome. Over three years since the recovery effort ended and almost nothing has been done other then the completion of the subway station. That by the way was built partially on the original footprint, another broken promise.

Over the past few months we have learned that the Memorial will be placed underground with not nearly as much space as originally planned. I guess this is to make sure that there is enough room for revenue generating structures above ground.

This madness has to stop. We need to rebuild with a plan built with our brains and our hearts. We need to make sure that not one beam is placed unless they are placed according to NYC Building and Fire Codes. The site should also pay respect to the family of Mr. Levin and the nearly 3,000 other families who had to watch their loved ones perish when the Towers fell. We owe it to them that any development is not only secure but respectful to those lost. The development cannot be 100% driven by dollars it needs to have heart.

Recently a local elected official referred to the inactivity at Ground Zero and blamed the Mayor and Governor for paying more attention to the West Side Stadium. Where has he been over the past three years. It amazes me how often elected officials have used 9/11 to promote their political agendas. Amazing how important it is to them when it suits and yet nothing has been done. Now the federal Government wants their money back because we couldn’t figure out how to spend it. Maybe we should have followed Jersey’s example at least they got new garbage trucks. If this wasn’t so sad it would be funny.

One last point. When told that there was too much glass on the lower floors of the design of the Freedom Tower and that 80% of injuries from terror attacks come from broken glass. A reasonable approach would be to eliminate the glass. No way, can’t lose that valuable window space. The designers are now looking at possibly using smaller widows or adding additional floors to make up for the loss. Doesn’t seem to me that there is any more concern about safety then there was 30 years ago.

If the Governor and the Mayor are really concerned about the safety of the Freedom Tower they would find a way to require the Port Authority abide by the NYC Fire and Building Codes. If need be our Senators and Congressmen and women need to get involved as well. For too long we have let the PA literally get away with murder at the WTC site and it has to stop. Since the design has to be revisited our elected officials should make a stand. If the Port Authority does not want to abide by the New York City codes they should not be allowed to build period.

Dennis McKeon
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