Wishful Thinking

The week had its share of strange symbolism. The massive Sphere that survived 9/11 is going into mothballs in some undisclosed location for some undisclosed reason. Apparently it is just too real. It is a reminder of our collective vulnerability and our intrepid spirit. But if the survivor Sphere doesn’t “fit” the new WTC, what better proof that the new WTC doesn’t fit the people?

Michael Burke whose brother, Captain Billy Burke, lost his life in the attacks, commented in an inteview with the New York Times that the “Sphere” is not just a symbol of grief and terror, but also a monument to world peace and cooperation. “I hope they treat it with dignity and respect,” he said. “But hope is a difficult word at ground zero.”

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of wannabe symbols. The Freedom Tower may be “a symbol of our resilience” for some, but it is a symbol of our gullibility for others. To the mind’s eye the tower will be the same height as the Twin Towers, but a 408-foot spire — about fifty feet higher than the antenna on Tower One — will make it “408 feet taller than the original Twin Towers and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.” Except it won’t be.

At the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the convulsions that began with the August toll hikes continue. The guillotine has been set up to give the appearance of regime change. The Chairman of the Board said, “It’s clear that we must improve the historical financial practices of this agency and begin a new era of smart, controlled spending.”

But spending $2 million on experts to figure that out isn’t reassuring. Heads are rolling, employees pay is posted online, and the Freedom of Information policy has been liberalized — but none of those measures will transform the once impressive agency that has degenerated into a political instrument.

The only way to save it is to open its policy making executive sessions — all the other remedies are theatrical — and resistance to that is a measure of how staged the rest of the changes are. They will save some money and tighten the agency going forward, but it really still is “your father’s Oldsmobile” with a new coat of paint.

New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chairs the Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, as well as the state Democratic party, seems to be a man on a mission. Last month, New Jersey lawmakers voted themselves power to subpoena Port Authority officials — over loud protests of a “partisan sideshow.”

But whatever the motives, anything that breaks the Port Authority’s power to hide what it chooses not to disclose and gets to the bottom of the boondoggle at Ground Zero is in the public’s best interest, no matter who may be damaged by the revelations.

Why should the public care? Those who have been ripping the public off at Ground Zero didn’t give the people a thought all these years. Now that it is backfiring on them, we can’t get too disturbed. Chairman Wisniewski recently said, “Some of the individuals who have left are people the committee would have liked to hear from.”

But their departure from the agency shouldn’t be a barrier to their testimony as long as they left with publicly funded pensions.

The Star-Ledger| “As World Trade Center climbs, so do costs

The Star-Ledger | “Port Authority CFO to retire…

GlobeSt.com | “One WTC Reaches New Heights

New York Post | “Chuck: GSA deal by summer

The Asbury Park Press | “New World Trade Center symbol of our resilience

HerbLondon.org | “The World Trade Center Site Fiasco

Curbed New York | “How Tall is Your Tall? One World Trade’s ‘Tallest’ Claim

The New York Times | “Spherical Symbol of Resilience Is Going Away, but It’s Unclear Where

2012-04-30T13:46:30+00:00 April 30th, 2012|Vol. One, No. 9 —|

Back On Top

The Space Shuttle Enterprise took a spin around New York before becoming a museum piece this week. The end of the shuttle and rise of one pretentious tower that claims to replace two inspiring towers is a sure sign of the times.

So is the fanciful “tallest building in North America” title that is pending. The hollow bravado of those claims is pathetic when compared to the character and spirit that fought a World War, crossed the Last Frontier, and built the Twin Towers.

Records used to mean something. Citizens demanded more of themselves and their leaders than we do today. Maybe we as a people just don’t have what it takes to excel anymore — except at fooling ourselves.

Maybe the extraordinary America is headed for the museum of world history. Maybe the ordinary America is the best we can do. But if we hope for another wave of greatness in our future, we need to diagnose what ails us before it can no longer be cured.

That’s what makes the rationalizations about the World Trade Center so insidious. It is as if we have a national case of pernicious anemia. Its symptoms are not acute — they include fatigue, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, and problems concentrating. But failure to get treated with Vitamin B12 shots in time can cause irreversible nerve damage.

In individuals the permanent effects include confusion, depression, loss of balance, and numbness in the hands and feet. It is pernicious because ignoring the low-grade symptoms can mean not seeking out treatment until it is already too late.

By the same token, if we tolerate the symptoms of our national decline and pretend we’re as good as ever, instead of getting tested and diagnosed, we might not recover. It is probably not too late for the country. But if we don’t stop making excuses, stretching the truth, and looking away, one day soon it could be.

ABCNews.com–AP| “With Shuttle’s End, Space Firms Seek New Direction

ABCNews.com–AP | “With an Asterisk, WTC Is Back on Top in NYC

Gawker.com| “World Trade Center Is the Tallest Building Again, But Not Really

Examiner.com| “Willis Tower to lose title as tallest in Western Hemisphere

Gannett/DailyRecord.com | “One World Trade Center ready to become tallest NYC building

The Record/NorthJersey.com| “Tallest of the tall: Jersey gets inspiring view of tower rising

The Star Ledger/NJ.com| “Sen. Lautenberg, others, request delay of Port Authority’s scheduled toll increase

CommercialObserver.com | “The London-Based Designers Behind 1 World Trade Center’s New Logo Speak

2012-04-23T13:44:40+00:00 April 23rd, 2012|Vol. One, No. 8 —|

The People’s Business

The Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did his agency no credit when he appeared at an April 18th Congressional hearing into last summer’s extortionate toll hikes. The hearing was chaired by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who introduced the Commuter Protection Act giving the federal transportation secretary power to roll back excessive toll hikes by agencies that receive federal funds. Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni’s appearance was clearly an effort to deflect questions, rather than provide answers. The concensus is that he did neither well.

In his opening statement Baroni said that the toll hikes can be blamed on “decades of excessive spending” and a $2.6 billion decline in revenues during the deep recession. But PA officials cannot deny that there would be no need for toll hikes if the agency were not underwriting the WTC reconstruction. That simple cause-and-effect has been lost on officials in both states and both sides of the political divide, but the New York and New Jersey legislatures seemed to be on track to make amends by calling for a joint hearing in March that was scheduled for April 20th on Staten Island.

Mr. Baroni was also scheduled to testify at that hearing, but an hour after the Lautenberg hearing, the joint legislative hearing was canceled due to a “scheduling conflict.” Two weeks later there has been no new date announced or any explanation of the abrupt way the matter was handled. The idea that something that has been on the calendar for over a month can be peremptorily cancelled 36-hours before the event on such flimsy grounds should have been censured by the media and the two legislatures.

If Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-N.Y.) suddenly discovered an urgent conflict, he should have had the courtesy to tell the public by now what the extraordinary matter was that caused the awkward cancellation and when a new date would be announced. Officials are fond of saying that they are working on “the people’s business” but how many of us can imagine informing an employer at the last minute that a high-profile meeting with a major client would have to wait until some undisclosed time because of a scheduling conflict? How would that go over? We all know the answer to that.

NJ.com | “Heated argument between Sen. Lautenberg, Port Authority executive…

U.S. Senate | “Protecting Commuters: Ensuring Accountability and Oversight in Tolling

PolitickerNJ.com | “Joint Port Authority hearing postponed

GSNMagazine.com | “Schumer presses for signature on GSA lease at One World Trade Center

The Twin Towers Alliance | “Twin Towers Alliance Letter to the GSA Administrator

2012-04-16T13:38:41+00:00 April 16th, 2012|Vol. One, No. 7 —|

Losing Our Grip?

Retiring Gannett columnist Bob Baird listed some defining issues in his last column. Under the heading WTC ISSUES he wrote: “It is a national disgrace that the ashes of World Trade Center victims, including scores from Rockland, remain in a Staten Island landfill, mingled with common garbage. And it’s a national nightmare, predicted by WTC families, that we recently learned remains of victims at the Pentagon also went to a landfill. More recently, we learned that remains of some of our war dead were sent to a Virginia landfill. Our delegation to Congress should immediately introduce legislation making it a federal crime to deposit remains of any American killed in war or terrorism anywhere but a national cemetery or another cemetery of their loved ones’ choosing.”

Weeping Angel

How did this become such a slobby society? What good is a media that can’t manage to convey issues that clearly concern every one of us and that reflect so badly on our entire nation? Why have 9/11 Families been left to fight this fight alone? The Twin Towers Alliance has written and spoken out against the degradation, but the proliferation of commentary on the Internet is misleading, because if the mainstream media don’t cover an issue, it is still unlikely to get enough oxygen to make a difference.

The New York Times was founded on the premise of “All the news that’s fit to print” in reaction to a press that preferred to peddle the sensational, instead of the information free people need to exercise their prerogatives. If only the nation’s “paper of record” had hammered away at this issue, or “60 Minutes” had done a segment, it wouldn’t still be such a secret today.

What can we get right, if we can’t correct something so wrong? It is not a matter of convenience or economy — it is a question of bedrock morality. All of the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the many WTC issues are the by-product of lack of good information. Why? We have so much going for us. But we seem to be losing our grip on what counts.

LoHud.com | “Columnist Bob Baird holds tight to his opinions

The Daily Record | “Port Authority reforms leave critics skeptical

The Daily Record | “More Port Authority toll hikes likely?

MSNBC.com | “London, NYC top the cities favored by the ultra-rich

Vanity Fair | “Separated at Birth: the 1 World Trade Center Logo and Pac-Man

2012-04-09T13:25:58+00:00 April 9th, 2012|Vol. One, No. 6 —|

Not Even Close

The not-even-close replacement for the most famous DUO in the world is an UNO — but we are not supposed to notice we are being gypped. Unfortunately for the PA and Durst Corporation, the real brand won’t rub off. As Larry Silverstein noted last June, it will always be the Freedom Tower. And it is only right that its hollow patriotic symbolism be enshrined by using its real name — since it is the pinnacle of contempt for the will of the people.

Skyline

As for pinnacles, it is wonderful for the people of New York that aerialist extraordinaire Philippe Petit is going to once again defy death by crossing the Grand Central rotunda to mark its hundredth anniversary. But, actually, what he does is not meant to defy death as much as to challenge the rest of us to ““Keep moving mountains, keep growing wings, keep dreaming…” which is how he concluded his Academy Award acceptance speech for “Man on Wire.”

The current feat pales beside the one he envisioned in his 2002 book, “To Reach the Clouds…” wherein he encouraged us to “pass from hand to hand the bricks of renaissance. Let’s print WE SHALL NOT BE DOOMED and paste the message high in the sky, for all in the world to read aloud. Let’s rebuild the twin towers.”

And then, he promised: “When the towers again twin-tickle the clouds, I offer to walk again, to be the instrument of the builders’ collective voice. Together, we will rejoice in an aerial song of victory. I will carry my life across the wire, as your life, as all our lives, past, present and future—the lives lost, the lives welcomed since. We can overcome.”

But high-priced hype can’t mask the real message of Ground Zero: “We cannot or will not overcome.” It was announced that New York ranks first as a global business center in a worldwide survey of cities — ahead of London, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.

But the engine of America is powered by the supremacy of the people, not the schemes of plutocrats and overlords. Unfortunately, those who lord it over the people don’t have the imagination to understand that when the people are cut out everybody loses…

The defining story of the week — and in a very real sense, the last ten years — is the story of The WTC Sphere, the massive sculpture that was commissioned to symbolize the purpose of the World Trade Center: Peace and Stability Through Trade.

The triumphant sphere that survived the destruction — battered, but intact — is going into mothballs and no one has explained why. Well, actually, they tried. According to the petition sponsored by 9/11 family members: “The designers of the memorial have ruled that it CANNOT be returned. In order, they said, to protect the integrity of the design.”

Michael Burke, whose brother gave his life on 9/11, has long been an eloquent advocate for those whose voices were silenced forever. He rarely misses an opportunity to point out the follies and fallacies at Ground Zero. And he is leading the charge to return the battered sphere to its original spot at the WTC.

The links below tell the bizarre story, which, coupled with the comments that are part of the families’ petition, bring to light some central questions that need convincing answers:

Why on earth would the future be uncertain for the artifact that was created to symbolize world peace and emerged intact from the inferno of 9/11? Why would anything with such significance and broad public support be banned from its rightful place?

Who is pulling the strings? Where do they get their authority to overrule the public? Why is the WTC agenda so contemptuous of what concerns most people?

Why was the public saddled with a memorial designer who obviously does not have a finger on the pulse of the people? Why does the “integrity of the design” matter more than the integrity of the memorial?

What about the integrity of the eternal flame that was lit at the 2002 dedication of the Sphere in Battery Park? What about the integrity of the government that was founded to serve the people?

When we get the answers to those questions, we will know why the Twin Towers aren’t shining in a reborn skyline today — because it is all part of the same contemptuous agenda. There is a black hole at Ground Zero that sucks anything that makes sense or reflects truth into bureaucratic oblivion. But we do not have to put up with it and give it power.

As Justice Louis D. Brandeis famously said: “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” And, as he also pointed out: “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.”

Those who imperiously usurp the rightful authority of citizens — most egregiously, at the World Trade Center (but getting away with it wherever they can) — have to be reminded who the true authorities are. As the celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright said when presented to His Majesty, King Faisal II, of Iraq: “And I am His Majesty, the American Citizen.”

commericalobserver.com | “1 WTC Logo Revealed

Telegraph.co.uk | “…Philippe Petit plans Grand Central Station traverse at 62

Crain’sNewYorkBusiness.com | “NY ranks as No. 1 global business center

Petition Online | “Save the WTC Sphere

The Washington Post | “Future unclear for sphere that survived WTC collapse…

DNAinfo.com| “World Trade Center Sphere Leaving Battery Park By End of April”

TribecaTrib.com| “WTC ‘Sphere’ Leaving Battery Park Soon, Likely Headed to JFK Hangar

DowntownExpress.com | “To the Editor: Don’t reopen Greenwich Street

2012-04-02T15:16:32+00:00 April 2nd, 2012|Vol. One, No. 5 —|