FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Port Authority loses 5-year battle to withhold WTC financial records
New York, New York – September 8, 2016
A Freedom of Information inquiry into World Trade Center funding was decided last week in the public’s favor. The initial request, filed with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on August 5, 2011, by Margaret Donovan of the Twin Towers Alliance was a direct result of the toll hikes the agency had announced that day.
“The Twin Towers Alliance is a watchdog over the Port Authority,” Donovan said. “We had already filed, prior to this one, a number of Freedom of Information inquiries into why the public was put on the hook for so much of Silverstein Properties’ contractual obligation at Ground Zero. The public has a right to know how we ever got into that position.”
Donovan explained, “Silverstein Properties signed contracts in July, 2001, requiring that in the event the Premises were ever damaged or destroyed ‘the Lessee, at its sole cost and expense, and whether or not such damage or destruction is covered by insurance proceeds sufficient for the purpose, shall remove all debris resulting from such damage or destruction, and shall rebuild, restore, repair and replace the Premises…’”
“Demanding to know how we went from rebuilding the World Trade Center at Silverstein’s ‘sole cost and expense’ to the public spending close to ten billion dollars is called accountability. If we don’t insist on good government, we can’t complain,” Donovan said. “The drastic toll hikes underscored the importance of getting to the bottom of what Silverstein has actually put into the site and what he has taken from it.”
After the agency took more than two years to deny the Freedom of Information request, Ms. Donovan filed for an Article 78 review in New York Supreme Court. On August 30, a decision came down from the Hon. Jennifer G. Schecter that found the agency “failed to provide any rational basis for denying access of the records requested to Donovan; thus, the determination must be deemed arbitrary and capricious.”
The judge wrote: “In the end, respondents failed to show any support for the determination that the records sought are exempt from access pursuant to the [Port Authority’s Freedom of Information Code].” The decision concluded, “the petition is granted and respondents must produce all responsive documents within 30 days.” A full copy of the Decision and Judgment can be found at www.twintowersalliance.com.
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