Friday, June 16, 2006

The Battle For Ground Zero, Part 147

Construction work is ramping up throughout the site despite the problems with the Freedom Tower. The temporary PATH terminal is going to be relocated to Vesey Street from its current location on Church, so that the permanent PATH terminal designed by Santiago Calatrava can be built. The new temporary PATH terminal entrance will eventually be replaced by Frank Gehry's performing arts center.

The Post reports that the size of the WTC memorial is shrinking in response to the call by Pataki, Bloomberg, and others to get the costs under control.

Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg got their first look at the proposed design changes during a closed-door meeting with builder Frank Sciame, who was tapped several weeks ago to help bring the memorial's soaring costs under control.

Among the proposals delivered by Sciame - designed to slash the memorial cost from $1 billion to $500 million - is a dramatic scaling back of the galleries beneath the plaza, where architect Michael Arad had envisioned displaying the names of all the victims on parapets ringing the two reflecting pools, sources said.

Under the new plan, the names would be inscribed at the plaza level, a move many victims' relatives strongly favor.

Eliminating most of the public space beneath the plaza would also reduce the number of entrances and exits needed to move people from one level to the other, lowering both construction and operating costs, sources said.

A 9/11 museum, however, would remain under the plaza, with its own entrance, according to plans reviewed by Pataki and Bloomberg.
It certainly appears that the Arad design is being completely reworked because the costs were out of control and safety concerns required massive expenditures to provide adequate access to the site in an emergency.
Sciame was able to reduce the $300 million in estimated infrastructure costs at the memorial to $150 million, of which the Port Authority has already committed to pay $100 million out of savings extracted from its new deal with developer Larry Silverstein.

Sources said the builder suggested that additional savings could be found by shifting responsibility for construction of the project from the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation to the Port Authority - an idea that was first floated several months ago.
So, we've gotten to within $50 million of the figure needed to get the infrastructure for the memorial done. That's good. So where is the remainder going to come from and should the Port Authority kick in the extra $50 million just to get the whole process going?

Meanwhile, some thefts of 9/11 related materials, including donated supplies to relief workers and artifacts taken from Ground Zero were not prosecuted.
Kieger Enterprises of Lino Lakes, Minn., dispatched trucks to a Long Island warehouse and loaded hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donated bottled water, clothes, tools and generators to be moved to Minnesota in a plot to sell some for profit, according to government records and interviews.

Dan L'Allier said he witnessed 45 tons of the New York loot being unloaded in Minnesota at his company's headquarters. He and disaster specialist Chris Christopherson complained to a company executive, but were ordered to keep quiet. They persisted, going instead to the FBI.

The two whistleblowers eventually lost their jobs, received death threats and were blackballed in the disaster relief industry. But they remained convinced their sacrifice was worth seeing justice done.

They were wrong.

As a result, most Americans were kept in the dark about a major fraud involving their donated goods even as new requests for charity emerged with disasters like Hurricane Katrina. And Christopherson and L'Allier were left disillusioned.

"I wouldn't open my mouth again for all the tea in China," L'Allier said. Added Christopherson, a 34-year-old father of two: "I paid a big price."

As firefighters searched for survivors after the Sept. 11 attacks, heat from the World Trade Center's smoldering ruins burned the soles off their boots. They needed new ones every few hours, and Christopherson made sure they got them. The moment that crushed Christopherson's faith was when his employer dispatched the trucks to the warehouse for those supplies, donated by Americans.

The government ultimately gave the whistleblowers $30,000 each after expenses, their share in a civil settlement against KEI. They say the sum was hardly worth their trouble.


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