Hardly a week goes by that there isn’t at least one new reminder of what a mistake is being made at the World Trade Center. The latest is the discovery that in the most often photographed view of the Trade Center — from the east — the Frank Gehry residential tower on Spruce Street, though hundreds of feet shorter, will look at least as tall as the roof of the Freedom Tower. Clearly, that would not be the case with 120-storey Twins, which would put everything in perspective.
As for the tower that Larry Silverstein pointed out last June will always be known as the Freedom Tower, we think that as long as the spire is destined for 1,776 feet, the least we the people can do is recognize its enormous significance by calling it by its true name. After all, reaching that patriotic pinnacle is the reason for dispensing with the world’s most fantastic roof deck — so that guide books can make the phony boast that it is the tallest building in North America.
The fact that the roof height is shorter than the Sears/Willis Tower in Chicago and before long will be surpassed in the skyline by a tower planned in Midtown known as “432 Park Avenue” makes the “tallest” claim increasingly embarrassing. New York never had to color the truth with gimmicks before.
Choosing questionable symbolism over the heady experience that no indoor deck could possibly match is the mark of an out-of-touch agency — as was the decision to scrap plans for a world-class restaurant that would far outperform the $10 million annually that the PA hopes to take in by siphoning off the Empire State Building’s broadcasters.
This is just more-of-the-same mismanagement by an agency that had to pay $2 million to auditors to tell them to cut salaries and refocus. And even then, they still haven’t conceded what we at the Twin Towers Alliance have been telling them in person at every Board Meeting for the past year and a half: They will continue to be compromised and unworthy of the public’s trust until they throw open the door to their “executive sessions” and let the sun shine in.
At last Thursday’s board meeting, Port Authority Chairman David Samson, Executive Director Pat Foye, and Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni announced to the press that the PA had instituted a policy which henceforth would make the agency more transparent. The sweeping changes to the agency’s Freedom of Information policy are very welcome and long overdue.
The agency is notorious for its lack of cooperation and many are now publicly complaining of abuse. But, while we are not the only applicants whose “FOIA” requests have been routinely mishandled, we are the only ones who have spoken at almost every Board of Commissioners meeting since September of 2010, decrying the lack of transparency and explaining how Commissioners robbed the public of the World Trade Center most of us wanted by deliberating all their business behind closed doors.
And, we are the only ones who were granted permission to be part of the lawsuit now pending against the Port Authority in District Court, by submitting a brief that characterized the Port Authority’s culture of secrecy as the root of all its problems.
That hasn’t changed, because the Freedom of Information reforms are important, but amount to a post mortem. They will help us establish what went wrong, after the fact, but the tremendous waste of public funds and public trust happened behind closed doors. They may be cracking the door, but they are still stuck in defensive mode, insisting that they are protecting the public interest in closed sessions, when the opposite is clearly the case.
The current mess isn’t the inevitable result of bad luck and bad markets, as they continue to insist, but bad choices and bad policies that never would have been effected if the Board’s deliberations had been public. And their high-priced auditors are not telling them what we are giving them for free.