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Lt. Jim McCaffrey, 9/11 Family Member, Op Ed for Daily News

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:33 am    Post subject: Lt. Jim McCaffrey, 9/11 Family Member, Op Ed for Daily News
From Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:00 am to Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:59 am (included)
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PA's Ground Zero plans prove agency has a lot to learn

By James McCaffrey

Thursday, March 26th 2009

During the past several months most Americans have become inured to the deficiencies of countless financial institutions. "Bailout" has become part of the lexicon. Not surprisingly, given many past performances, the Port Authority has recently joined this somewhat ignominious group by requesting federal dollars to fund various projects.

The request comes as the PA continues to justify extravagant and superfluous construction projects in the form of the 9/11 memorial and museum and the Calatrava transit hub.

Various estimates approximate the current cost of the memorial at levels near $1 billion and the transit hub at close to $3 billion. And, being that these are current estimates and that this is, after all, New York City, no one can realistically believe that these figures will not rise dramatically as the projects proceed.

It's time to rethink these plans.

A quick perusal of the plans for the memorial/museum complex reveals a grandiose design extending seven stories below street level. Building designers and safety experts have stated that such a structure has several inherent flaws.

First, it is a subterranean labyrinth with no obvious means of escape for those who will be 70 feet below ground. Access and egress will be a logistical problem under the best conditions. Under emergency conditions it turns into a nightmare. Many of the exits necessitate traveling on horizontal pathways for several hundred feet before an ascent begins to ground level. It will be a monumental task to evacuate such a structure during an emergency. And no one needs to be reminded that Ground Zero will remain the No. 1 terrorist target in the world.

The current proposal regarding the placement of the victims' names also fails to properly recognize those who were killed on that fateful morning. Ironically, the connection between the victims and 9/11 itself is absent. No affiliations such as those of first responders or members of the military will be listed. It also fails to list the victims' department, branch of service and their rank. Civilian victims will likewise have no affiliation, age or the floor where they worked listed next to their names.

Essentially, this memorial is a generic rendition that could represent just about any event.

The current proposal is also said to be a green project. Just the energy required to pump and heat the water integral to the design is more than enough to refute that claim. Additionally, the millions of dollars required every year to run the memorial is a colossal waste of money. One must also wonder how the waterfalls will remain safe and efficient during the cold, winter months.

Regarding the transit hub, many have questioned the need for such an extravagant and expensive design where relatively few passengers travel. The cost, which keeps spiraling upward, is prohibitive.

In addition, the glass-laden Calatrava structure is located directly above one of the proposed underground bus garages. It seems that the PA has not learned the security lessons of 1993, despite recently paying millions to the victims of that terrorist attack.

In the best of economic times, such projects would be dubious. In our present climate, they are unsustainable. A scaled down version of the transit hub would be more cost-effective and profitable in the long run.

A similar reassessment of the memorial/museum complex would likewise result in a safer, more responsible and less costly product. It would also be much closer to what the majority of 9/11 family members and most Americans have always sought: a simple, respectful and inspiring aboveground memorial that simultaneously records the events as they happened, and appropriately honors those who perished. It has always been our solemn duty to provide such recognition and now, more than ever, this worthy goal must be achieved.

McCaffrey, whose brother-in-law FDNY Battalion Chief Orio J. Palmer (Battalion 7) died on 9/11, is co-chairman of the Advocates for a 9/11 Fallen Heroes Memorial.
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