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Context of '(September 11, 2001-May 2002): Little-Known City Agency Takes Charge of Ground Zero Cleanup Operation'

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Giuliani’s emergency command center.Giuliani’s emergency command center. [Source: CNN]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. [Newsday, 9/12/2001] The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, and terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof, and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, beds, showers to accommodate 30 people, and three backup generators. It also has rooms full of video monitors from where the mayor can oversee police and fire department responses. It is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. [CNN, 6/7/1999; London Times, 9/12/2001; Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 233] The center is ridiculed as “Rudy’s bunker.” [Time, 12/22/2001] Author Philip Shenon will later comment that it “seemed the supreme example of how Giuliani’s ego and arrogance knew no bounds after four years in office,” and: “WABC Radio mocked Giuliani with a name-that-bunker contest for its listeners. Among the most popular entries: ‘Rudy’s Nuclear Winter Palace’ and ‘The Nut Shell.’” It is criticized because of the cost and because of the location, next to the WTC towers, one of the city’s top terrorist targets. In addition, the high floor it is on means it is vulnerable to power, water, and elevator outages. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 346-347] Most controversial is the 6,000-gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 will be destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. [New York Times, 12/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Office of Emergency Management, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Kenneth Holden.Kenneth Holden. [Source: Public domain]The New York City agency that oversees the Ground Zero cleanup operation following the 9/11 attacks is the Department of Design and Construction (DDC). [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 299] This obscure 1,300-man bureaucracy is normally responsible for overseeing municipal construction contracts, such as street repairs and jails. Its two top officials are Kenneth Holden and his lieutenant, Michael Burton. [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 9] Burton is in lower Manhattan the morning of 9/11, instead of in his office in Queens, for a meeting at City Hall, just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. [Engineering News-Record, 4/22/2002] That afternoon, he meets Holden and together they begin organizing the cleanup operation. By 5:30 p.m., the group of workers they have assembled gains permission to explore the WTC ruins. Under Burton’s direction, the team of “unbuilders” subsequently undertakes what journalist William Langewiesche describes as “the most aggressive possible schedule of demolition and debris removal.” Yet this appears to go against established procedures. On previous occasions the standard emergency response to natural or man-made disasters in the US, such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was to rapidly nationalize efforts on the ground, under the direction of FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers. [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 66, 90, 94, 146] New York’s official emergency plans, which were written before 9/11, in fact require the Department of Sanitation to remove debris after a building collapse. A mid-level official who was involved in writing the latest plans mentions a week after 9/11 that she doesn’t even know quite what the DDC is. DDC’s only previous experiences of dealing with emergencies are a sinking EMS station in Brooklyn, caused by a water leak, and a structural failure at Yankee Stadium. According to Langewiesche, there is no specific moment when Holden and Burton are placed in charge of the Ground Zero cleanup effort. “Rather, there was a shift of power in their direction that was never quite formalized and, indeed, was unjustified by bureaucratic logic or political considerations.” Reportedly, at some point, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made a “back-room decision to scrap the organization charts, to finesse the city’s own Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and to allow the DDC to proceed.” [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 66, 88 and 118; Engineering News-Record, 4/22/2002] The Ground Zero cleanup operation officially ends in May 2002. [CBS News, 5/16/2002; New York Times, 5/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Michael Burton, Ken Holden, World Trade Center, New York City Department of Design and Construction

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Grand Illusion, by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins.Grand Illusion, by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins. [Source: HarperCollins]A book is released that questions the conventional heroic image of then New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on 9/11. Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 is by investigative reporters Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins. Barrett is a senior writer at the Village Voice, and Collins is a senior producer at CBSNews.com. [Los Angeles Times, 8/22/2006] For their book, they had exclusive access to never before seen 9/11 Commission interviews, and managed to get frank statements from some central figures, though Giuliani himself refused to be interviewed. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 363; Newsday, 8/23/2006] The New York Daily News calls the book an “exhaustively researched and unsentimental peek behind the mythology [that] strongly suggests that Giuliani and his top deputies committed many errors that did grave, even fatal, harm to citizens, emergency responders and recovery teams before, on and after that terrible day.” [New York Daily News, 8/22/2006] The book criticizes Giuliani’s claim that, after becoming mayor in 1994, he made preparing New York’s response to a future terrorist attack a priority. According to Barrett and Collins’ research, in the aftermath of the 1993 WTC bombing, he in fact failed to understand the importance of preparing the city for another attack. They write, “The facts—depressing but unavoidable—were that Giuliani had allowed the city to meet the disaster of September 11 unprepared in a myriad of ways.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/22/2006; Newsday, 8/23/2006] The book criticizes Giuliani’s decision to locate New York’s emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7—across the street from an obvious terrorist target—despite the objections of senior fire and police officials. [New York Daily News, 8/22/2006; Newsweek, 9/11/2006; New York Times, 11/12/2006] The inadequacy of fire department radios on 9/11 is examined in detail. These same radios had failed when used at the 1993 WTC bombing. New radios were only provided in March 2001, but these failed in their first week of use and were withdrawn. Also, the fact that the police and fire departments were equipped with incompatible radios meant that many firefighters did not get the mayday call to evacuate the North Tower before it collapsed on 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 8/22/2006; Newsweek, 9/11/2006; Democracy Now!, 1/3/2007] The book also criticizes the fact that, after 9/11, construction workers and firefighters were permitted to work at Ground Zero without protective respiratory gear. Subsequently, thousands of them became afflicted with upper respiratory illnesses. [New York Daily News, 8/22/2006] Grand Illusion receives much praise, though the New York Times criticizes its “relentlessly hostile tone,” which, it claims, “undermines the authors’ case.” [New York Times, 11/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Dan Collins, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Wayne Barrett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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