WTC site buildings should meet city code
Ask governors to support victims' family group
in call to meet higher standards than Port Authority requires
Tuesday, May 6, 2003
By TERENCE J. KIVLAN
Staten Island Advance
WASHINGTON -- The governors of New York and New Jersey are under pressure from lawmakers in Congress who want the replacement complex for the World Trade Center to meet New York City building codes, not those of the Port Authority.
Under current law, the Port Authority is exempt from local standards. But Govs. George E. Pataki and James McGreevey could order the agency to meet city standards in the Lower Manhattan project.
Led by Republican Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, nine congressmen from the metropolitan area have asked the two governors to use the city code in building "Freedom Tower" at Ground Zero. The centerpiece of the design is a 1,700-foot tower.
"The site will continue to be a high-risk target for potential terrorist attacks," Shays wrote in a recent letter to Pataki and McGreevey. "Every measure must be taken to minimize the risk to lives in and near the site. Adherence to municipal building codes would be a fundamental step in the process."
Also signing the letter were Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel of the Bronx, Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island, and Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan.
Port Authority spokesman Greg Trevor responded yesterday that the Port Authority's standards for building construction -- including those used for the original World Trade Center -- have always met or exceeded all state and local requirements.
That claim, however, is rejected by the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, which has been orchestrating the push to have city codes apply to the Freedom Tower. The campaign's members, survivors of Sept. 11 victims, charge that design flaws and cheap construction in the World Trade Center contributed to the enormous loss of life there.
"To exempt [the authority] again just because they want to save money is ridiculous," said Bruce DeCell of Great Kills yesterday.
DeCell, a retired police officer whose son-in-law, Mark Petrocelli, 29, died in the collapse of the Twin Towers, said the use of sub-par fire retardants and shoddy stair construction rendered the buildings more vulnerable than they should have been.
"The stairs should have been encased in cement but they were just built with Sheetrock," he said. "When the planes hit, the Sheetrock just fell apart and blocked the stairwells."
"How can the city be expected to send its firefighters into buildings that don't meet the New York City code?" asked Sally Regenhard of the Bronx, whose firefighter son, Christian Michael Otto, 28, died at Ground Zero.
"If the Port Authority's code is as tough or tougher as the city's, they should have no problem signing up for the city's," said Dennis McKeon, director of the World Trade Center Outreach Committee of St. Clare's R.C. Church in Great Kills.
Campaign members are all the more upset with the Port Authority's exemption from city building codes because the agency has sought dismissal of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by some survivors, including Ms. Regenhard.
In a hearing last week in Manhattan federal court, Port Authority lawyers said the agency itself was a victim of Sept. 11 and could not be held responsible. The authority lost 84 employees in the attack, including 37 police officers. Of the 267 Islanders and former Islanders killed that day, five were Port Authority staffers and three were Port Authority cops.
Molly Fullington, a spokeswoman for Pataki in Manhattan, said he was "looking at" the Shays letter.
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