Profile: New York Port Authority
New York Port Authority was a participant or observer in the following events:
Peter Goldmark. [Source: Environmental Defense Fund]Peter Goldmark, the executive director of the New York Port Authority, is concerned that, in light of terrorist attacks occurring around the world (see April 18-October 23, 1983), Port Authority facilities, including the World Trade Center, could become terrorist targets. [Associated Press, 9/28/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005] He therefore creates a unit called the Office of Special Planning (OSP) to evaluate the vulnerabilities of all Port Authority facilities and present recommendations to minimize the risks of attack. The OSP is staffed by Port Authority police and civilian workers, and is headed by Edward O’Sullivan, who has experience in counterterrorism from earlier careers in the Navy and Marine Corps. In carrying out its work, the OSP will consult with such US agencies as the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, NSA, and Defense Department. It will also consult with security officials from other countries that have gained expertise in combating terrorism, such as England, France, Italy, and Israel. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 226; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] According to Peter Caram, head of the Port Authority’s Terrorist Intelligence Unit, the OSP will develop “an expertise unmatched in the United States.” [Caram, 2001, pp. 12] In 1985 it will issue a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center” (see November 1985). [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999] It will exist until 1987. [Village Voice, 1/5/2000]
After assessing the security of New York Port Authority facilities, the Office of Special Planning (OSP), the Port Authority’s own antiterrorist task force, releases a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center.” For security purposes, only seven copies are made, being hand-delivered and signed for by its various recipients, including the executive director of the Port Authority, the superintendent of the Port Authority Police, and the director of the World Trade Department. [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999; Village Voice, 1/5/2000] Because of the WTC’s visibility, symbolic value, and it being immediately recognizable to people from around the world, the report concludes that the center is a “most attractive terrorist target.” [New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] The report, which is 120 pages long, lists various possible methods of attacking the center. [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999; Caram, 2001, pp. 103; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 87] One of these is that a “time bomb-laden vehicle could be driven into the WTC and parked in the public parking area.… At a predetermined time, the bomb could be exploded in the basement.” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 227] As a Senate Committee Report will find in August 1993, “The specifics of the February 26, 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center garage were almost identical to those envisioned in the [OSP] report.” [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999] Due to the Port Authority’s failure to adequately implement the OSP’s recommendations, the report will be crucial evidence in a successful civil trial against it in October 2005, charging negligence in failing to prevent the 1993 bombing. [Bloomberg, 10/26/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005; New York Times, 2/18/2006] As of mid-2006, the other possible methods of attacking the WTC listed in the report remain undisclosed.
Following the release of the Office of Special Planning’s (OSP) report, which called the WTC a “most attractive terrorist target” (see November 1985), the New York Port Authority, which owns the center, seeks a second opinion on the OSP’s recommendations. At a cost of approximately $100,000, it hires the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to review the general security of the WTC. SAIC states in its report that the attractiveness of the WTC’s public areas to terrorists is “very high.” Like the OSP, SAIC pays particular attention to the underground levels of the center and describes a possible attack scenario much like what occurs in the 1993 bombing. [Caram, 2001, pp. 105-106; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004]
Brian Michael Jenkins. [Source: Rand Corporation]Following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), the New York Port Authority asks investigative and security consulting firm Kroll Associates to help design new security measures for the WTC. Kroll’s Deputy Chairman Brian Michael Jenkins leads the analysis of future terrorist threats and how they might be addressed. Assessments conclude that a second terrorist attack against the WTC is probable. Although it is considered unlikely, the possibility of terrorists deliberately flying a plane into the WTC towers is included in the range of possible threats. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 11; New Yorker, 10/19/2009 ]
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was created in 1996 by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to manage the city’s response to catastrophes, including terrorist attacks (see 1996). In the years preceding 9/11, it holds regular interagency training exercises, aiming to carry out a tabletop or field exercise every eight to 12 weeks. Mayor Giuliani is personally involved in many of these. The exercises are very lifelike: Giuliani will later recount, “We used to take pictures of these trial runs, and they were so realistic that people who saw them would ask when the event shown in the photograph had occurred.” Scenarios drilled include disasters such as a sarin gas attack in Manhattan, anthrax attacks, and truck bombs. One exercise, which takes place in May 2001, is based on terrorists attacking New York with bubonic plague (see May 11, 2001). Another, conducted in conjunction with the New York Port Authority, includes a simulated plane crash. Just one week before 9/11, OEM is preparing a tabletop exercise with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), to develop plans for business continuity in New York’s Financial District—where the World Trade Center is located—after a terrorist attack. Jerome Hauer, OEM director from 1996 to February 2000, later testifies, “We looked at every conceivable threat that anyone on the staff could think of, be it natural or intentional but not the use of aircraft as missiles.” He tells the 9/11 Commission: “We had aircraft crash drills on a regular basis. The general consensus in the city was that a plane hitting a building… was that it would be a high-rise fire.… There was never a sense, as I said in my testimony, that aircraft were going to be used as missiles.” [Time, 12/22/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 62-63; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 30; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283] OEM will be preparing for a bioterrorism exercise the morning of 9/11 (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001) (see September 12, 2001).
The FAA creates “Red Teams”
—small, secretive teams traveling to airports and attempting to foil their security systems—in response to the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland. According to later reports, the Red Teams conduct extensive testing of screening checkpoints at a large number of domestic airports in 1998. The results were frightening: “We were successful in getting major weapons—guns and bombs—through screening checkpoints with relative ease, at least 85 percent of the time in most cases. At one airport, we had a 97 percent success rate in breaching the screening checkpoint.… The individuals who occupied the highest seats of authority in the FAA were fully aware of this highly vulnerable state of aviation security and did nothing.”
[New York Times, 2/27/2002] In 1999, the New York Port Authority and major airlines at Boston’s Logan Airport will be “fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations [between 1999-2001]. In the majority of incidents, screeners hired by the airlines for checkpoints in terminals routinely [fail] to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns.”
[Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
[Source: Silverstein Properties publicity photo]Real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties and real estate investment trust Westfield America Inc. finalize a deal worth $3.2 billion to purchase a 99-year lease on the World Trade Center. The agreement covers the Twin Towers, World Trade Center Buildings 4 and 5 (two nine-story office buildings), and about 425,000 square feet of retail space. [New York Times, 4/27/2001; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 7/24/2001; IREIzine, 7/26/2001] Westfield America Inc. will be responsible for the retail space, known as the Mall. Silverstein Properties’ lease will cover the roughly 10 million square feet of office space of the Twin Towers and Buildings 4 and 5. Silverstein Properties already owns Building 7 of the WTC, which it built in 1987. This is the only time the WTC has ever changed hands since it was opened in 1973. [International Council of Shopping Centers, 4/27/2001; Westfield Group, 7/24/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 11/29/2001; CNN, 8/31/2002] It was previously controlled by the New York Port Authority, a bi-state government agency. [Wall Street Journal, 5/12/2007] Silverstein and Westfield are given the right to rebuild the structures if they are destroyed. [New Yorker, 5/20/2002]
Silverstein Properties Not the Highest Bidder - Silverstein Properties’ bid for the WTC, at $3.22 billion, was the second highest after Vornado Realty Trust’s, at $3.25 billion. Silverstein Properties won the contract only after protracted negotiations between the Port Authority and Vornado Realty Trust failed. The privatization of the WTC has been overseen by Lewis M. Eisenberg, the chairman of the Port Authority. Eisenberg, a financier, is involved in Republican politics. [New York Times, 3/17/2001; Forward, 8/20/2004]
Banks Provide Most Money for Deal - Larry Silverstein, the president of Silverstein Properties, only uses $14 million of his own money for the deal. His partners, who include real estate investors Lloyd Goldman and Joseph Cayre, put up a further $111 million, and banks provide $563 million in loans. [Brill, 2003, pp. 156; New York Times, 11/22/2003; South Florida CEO, 2/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/11/2008]
Silverstein's Lenders Want More Insurance - The Port Authority had carried only $1.5 billion in insurance coverage on all its buildings, including the WTC, but Silverstein’s lenders insist on more, eventually demanding $3.55 billion in cover. [American Lawyer, 9/3/2002] After 9/11, Larry Silverstein will claim the attacks on the World Trade Center constituted two separate events, thereby entitling him to a double payout totaling over $7 billion. [Daily Telegraph, 10/9/2001; Guardian, 8/18/2002] Eventually, after several years of legal wrangling, a total of $4.55 billion of insurance money will be paid out for the destruction of the WTC (see May 23, 2007). Most of this appears to go to Silverstein Properties. How much goes to Westfield America Inc. is unclear. [New York Post, 5/24/2007]
Silverstein Properties, Larry Silverstein’s company which took over the lease of the WTC weeks earlier (see July 24, 2001), has a meeting planned for the morning of 9/11 in it’s temporary offices on the 88th floor of the WTC North Tower, along with Port Authority officials. It is to discuss what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. However, this evening the meeting is canceled because one participant cannot attend. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 11/21/2001] Of Silverstein Properties’ 160 staff, 54 are in the North Tower when it is hit, and four of them die. [Globe and Mail, 9/7/2002]
During the 9/11 catastrophe, around 200 people die in the WTC’s elevators without getting help from elevator mechanics, according to an in-depth study later performed by USA Today. Some of the victims are burned by the initial explosion, some die as the elevator cars plummet when their cables are severed, and some are stuck and perish in the collapse. USA Today will say it “could not locate any professional rescues of people stuck in elevators. The Fire Department of New York and the Port Authority also could not cite successful rescues.” After the North Tower is hit, most of the WTC’s 83 elevator mechanics gather in the lobby of the South Tower, but when the second plane hits, they evacuate. In contrast, a passing elevator mechanic from another company runs into the WTC and dies trying to free trapped passengers. USA Today will comment: “When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Otis Elevator’s mechanics led the rescue of 500 people trapped in elevators. Some mechanics were dropped onto the roofs of the Twin Towers by helicopter. Others, carrying 50-pound oxygen tanks on their backs, climbed through smoke to machine rooms high in the towers. On Sept. 11, the elevator mechanics—many of the same men involved in the rescues in 1993—left the buildings after the second jet struck, nearly an hour before the first building collapsed.” Although ACE Elevator, the local company which won the WTC contract from Otis in 1994, will say it was acting in accordance with procedure, USA Today will note: “The departure of elevator mechanics from a disaster site is unusual. The industry takes pride in rescues. In the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, elevator mechanics worked closely with the firefighters making rescues.” Robert Caporale, editor of Elevator World will say, “Nobody knows the insides of a high-rise like an elevator mechanic. They act as guides for firefighters, in addition to working on elevators.” The Port Authority will also say that their departure was in conflict with the emergency plan. “There was no situation in which the mechanics were advised or instructed to leave on their own.” [USA Today, 12/19/2001; USA Today, 9/4/2002]
According to released transcripts, a caller from the Port Authority police desk tells a La Guardia Airport control tower employee that, “they are considering [the crashes into the WTC] a criminal act.” The control tower employee replies, “We believe that, and we are holding all aircraft on the ground.”
[Associated Press, 12/29/2003] La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports, and the Port Authority patrol both the WTC and the city’s airports.
A Port Authority police officer calls a flight controller at La Guardia Airport in New York City. The officer asks, “They are inquiring whether or not you can call Kennedy’s tower, because they can’t get through, and inquire whether or not they had any contact with these aircrafts.” The flight controller responds, “At this time, we do not think that anyone in the FAA had any contact with them.” [New York Times, 12/30/2003] “Kennedy” is a reference to John F. Kennedy Airport, another major airport in New York City. Port Authority police, who patrol both the WTC and the airports, seek information from the controllers about the hijackers. However, the controllers are unable to offer any news. [New York Times, 12/30/2003]
Someone falling from the WTC. Well over 50 jumped or fell from the North Tower, none from the South Tower. [Source: Associated Press]At some point between the collapse of the two WTC towers, it is claimed that fire chiefs order the firefighters to come down. It has not been reported exactly who issued this order or when. Witnesses claim that scores of firefighters, unaware of the danger, were resting on lower floors in the minutes before the second tower collapsed. “Some firefighters who managed to get out said they had no idea the other building had already fallen, and said that they thought that few of those who perished knew.” At least 121 firefighters in the remaining tower die. The Fire Department blames a faulty radio repeater. However, the Port Authority claims later transcripts of radio communications show the repeaters worked. [New York Times, 11/9/2002]
Congress approves a $15 billion federal aid package for the battered US airline industry, and sets up a government fund to compensate 9/11 victims’ relatives. [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/2001] However, relatives are only allowed to sue US-designated terrorists, and if they sue anyone else, they are not entitled to any compensation money. The law also limits the airlines’ liability to the limits of their insurance coverage—around $1.5 billion per plane. [Los Angeles Times, 1/17/2002] Nevertheless, some later sue entities that make them ineligible for the fund, such as the Port Authority, owner of the WTC.
Right before the expiration of a one-year legal deadline, the Port Authority, the government body that owns the WTC complex, is sued by five insurance companies, one utility and 700 relatives of the WTC victims. The insurance companies and utility are suing because of safety violations connected to the installation of diesel fuel tanks in 1999 that many blame for the collapse of WTC Building 7. [Dow Jones Business News, 9/10/2002] The relatives’ lawsuit is much more encompassing, and even blames the Port Authority for the Flight 93 hijacking (the Port Authority owns Newark airport, where the flight originated). The relatives’ lawsuit is likely to lie dormant for at least six months as evidence is collected. Relatives are also considering suing the airlines, security companies, and other entities. [Newsweek, 9/13/2002]
Kristen Breitweiser. [Source: Hyungwon Kang/ Reuters]Two 9/11 victims’ relatives testify before the Congressional 9/11 inquiry. Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband Ronald died at the WTC, asks how the FBI was so quickly able to assemble information on the hijackers. She cites a New York Times article stating that agents descended on flight schools within hours of the attacks. “How did the FBI know where to go a few hours after the attacks?” she asks. “Were any of the hijackers already under surveillance?” [MSNBC, 9/18/2002] She adds, “Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse in their duties and responsibilities leading up to and on September 11th. But their negligence does not stand alone. Agencies like the Port Authority, the City of NY, the FAA, the INS, the Secret Service, NORAD, the Air Force, and the airlines also failed our nation that morning.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002] Stephen Push states, “If the intelligence community had been doing its job, my wife, Lisa Raines, would be alive today.” He cites the government’s failure to place Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi on a terrorist watch list until long after they were photographed meeting with alleged al-Qaeda operatives in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). [MSNBC, 9/18/2002]
Entity Tags: Stephen Push, US Secret Service, New York Port Authority, US Department of the Air Force, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Kristen Breitweiser, Al-Qaeda, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Immigration and Naturalization Service, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, City of New York, Lisa Raines
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Insulated trusses in the World Trade Center.
[Source: Gilsanz Murray Steficek]At a press briefing in New York City, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases a 122-page progress report on its investigation into the WTC collapses. NIST began its study in August 2002 (see August 21, 2002). Investigators say they believe that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who built the Twin Towers, failed to carry out vital tests to establish how the buildings would cope with a major fire. They have been unable to find evidence that tests were conducted on the fireproofing material used in the buildings. Their report also states that in 1969, builders directed contractors to coat the WTC floor supports with half an inch of spray-on fireproofing. In 1999, the Port Authority issued guidelines to triple the thickness of the fireproofing, and by 9/11, about 30 floors in the upper areas of the two towers had been upgraded. Almost all the floors in the impact zone of the North Tower had their fireproofing upgraded, while in the South Tower just the 78th floor—the lowest in its impact zone—had been upgraded. As the New York Times states, though, “investigators took great care… to say they were nowhere close to definitively determining how and why the towers collapsed after they were struck by hijacked airliners.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/2003, pp. 81 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/7/2003; Guardian, 5/8/2003; New York Times, 5/8/2003]
Insurance companies reach a $2 billion settlement with real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties for the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. The agreement, which involves seven of the two-dozen insurers for the WTC, ends more than five years of legal wrangling. The other insurance companies involved have already paid out about $2.55 billion, meaning the total payout will be $4.55 billion. In September 2006, Silverstein Properties and the New York Port Authority had agreed to split the reconstruction of the WTC site between them, and to divide up the remaining insurance proceeds accordingly. Consequently, the Port Authority is to receive about $870 million from the latest settlement, while the remaining $1.13 billion will go to Silverstein Properties. [New York State, 5/23/2007; New York Times, 5/23/2007; Newsday, 5/23/2007; Reuters, 5/23/2007] Silverstein Properties acquired the lease on several of the World Trade Center buildings, including the Twin Towers, in July 2001 (see July 24, 2001). [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 7/24/2001] As the New York Times summarizes, “At that time, two dozen insurers had signed binders pledging to provide $3.5 billion in insurance coverage, but had not finished the documentation.” Therefore, after 9/11, an “ugly dispute developed over which insurance policy was in effect at the time of the attack. Mr. [Larry] Silverstein [the president of Silverstein Properties] argued that since two jetliners slammed into the two towers, he was entitled to a double payment on the $3.5 billion policy. But many of the insurers countered that they had agreed to a different policy that did not permit double claims.” [New York Times, 5/23/2007] In 2004, federal juries had decided that Silverstein Properties could collect a maximum of $4.68 billion for the loss of the WTC. The current settlement therefore means the insurers are obliged to pay 97.2 percent of that maximum. [Bloomberg, 5/23/2007; New York State, 5/23/2007; Newsday, 5/23/2007; Reuters, 5/23/2007] Silverstein Properties had separately been awarded $861 million of insurance money in 2002 for the loss of World Trade Center Building 7, which also collapsed on 9/11 (see May 2002).
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