The silver spire topping One World Trade Center on Friday brought the structure to its final height of 1,776 feet. Loud applause and cries of joy erupted from construction workers as the spire was gently lowered and secured into place. (May 10)
For the record, yes, we oppose (as we always have) the inclusion of the WTC Cross in the WTC Memorial & Museum in NYC, and are now plaintiffs in a lawsuit for it’s removal (or, alternately, atheist inclusion into the memorial).
As you may remember, the buildings were made from girders crossing each other, and in the rubble some Christians found a pair of girders still welded that closely (not exactly, but closely enough) resemble a Christian Roman Cross.
The cross has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men a few times, and presented as a reminder that God, in his infinite power of goodness, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists, or stop the fire, or hold up the buildings to stop 3000 people from being crushed, cared enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. Ridiculous.
This cross is set to be included in the official WTC Museum. No other religions or philosophies will be honored. It will just be a Christian icon, in the middle of OUR (as in Americans) museum. This will not happen without a fight.
It’s been a long while since the Park51 mosque saw headlines made in one form or another. The planned mosque and community center on Park Place in Manhattan certainly got tons of attention a few years ago when Imam Feisel Rauf along with developer Sharif El-Gamal announced plans to turn the buildings at 51 and 53 Park Place into a mosque and community center.
Revelations about the plan immediately became a cause celebre for the likes of Pamela Geller and other Islamophobes who claimed that the mosque was part of Ground Zero or would otherwise tower over the Ground Zero site. Their obnoxious and noxious claims about the development plans and the site made headlines, but their opposition did not stop the plan from moving forward in NYC bureaucracies for building permits and landmarks preservation.
Yet, far from towering over Ground Zero (where 1WTC is now the tallest building in New York City, and will soon be the tallest skyscraper in North America), the site has languished as donations haven’t reached a critical mass to begin construction, there’s been a longstanding fight with Con Ed over rent payments for part of the property, and now comes word that two of the donors are suing the Imam over siphoning off donations to fund a lavish lifestyle.
The ex-‘Ground Zero’ imam, his pockets stuffed with donations given to Islamic nonprofits, splurged on a high-flying lifestyle that included expensive trips with a New Jersey gal pal, a stunning new lawsuit charges.
The married Feisal Abdul Rauf fleeced the Malaysian government for $3 million and a Westchester County couple for $167,000, according to a lawsuit filed by the couple, businessman Robert Deak and his wife Moshira Soliman.
The money was given to help Rauf’s two nonprofits, the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which work to combat anti-Islamic sentiment.
Instead, the controversial imam used some of the cash to provide lavish gifts and getaways to a woman identified as Evelyn Adorno, who shared ‘a personal relationship with Rauf,’ said Deak’s attorney, Jonathan Nelson.
Adorno lives in North Bergen, N.J. — the same town as the 64-year-old imam and his wife, Daisy Khan.
The rest of the cash was spent on a luxury sports car, personal real estate and entertainment for the imam and his wife, charges the 11-page lawsuit.
Park 51 has been open for religious services since last year, but hasn’t been open as a community center, and the building hasn’t undergone any of the construction that required Landmarks Preservation Committee approval to the exterior. It’s essentially using the space as it has been since not long after the 9/11 attacks. The exterior is unchanged and interior spaces haven’t been reconfigured either.
The Daily News also reviewed documents about Cordoba and intimated that there might be tax fraud or avoidance:
Cordoba reported no revenue in a 2006 tax filing and just $15,000 in gifts, grants and contributions in a 2007 filing, even though the Deak Family Foundation reported giving Cordoba $38,000 in 2006 and $30,000 in 2007.
In later filings, Cordoba retroactively reported additional revenue for 2006 and 2007.
Despite that, this isn’t nearly as cut and dried as the Daily News suggests. The Cordoba Initiative sued Mr. Deak and Ms. Solimon in 2010 for $1.5 million in US District Court in Washington DC for fraud and breach of trust relating to the sale of a condominium. The Cordoba’s suit claims that Deak and Solimon inflated the value of the condo and then failed to transfer the title of the property.
In other words, it appears that this is a relationship that has gone sour over the past couple of years, and things began unraveling beginning in 2010 between the Imam and the donors. That’s when Deak and Solimon began looking into Rauf’s actions - likely in retaliation for the suit over the condo.
This isn’t the first relationship that has soured in the Park51 development. Rauf split with developer Sharif El-Gamal who owned the Burlington Coat Factory building at 51 Park Place that they had hoped to turn into a religious and community center that they hoped would mirror the work of the JCC in Manhattan uptown. Gamal is still involved in the Park51 project, but plans have stalled with a paucity of funds available to bring the full vision to fruition.
While the Freedom Tower (1WTC) is closing in on being topped out later this year, the financial picture for the World Trade Center redevelopment is grim. In fact, grim isn’t quite the word. It’s downright scary and awful. An audit demanded by both New York and New Jersey governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie shows just how bleak the situation is.
The Port Authority has so severely mismanaged the project that the audit released this week only scratches the surface on the dysfunction.
First among the problems is the compensation packages provided to Port Authority employees that leads to structural costs that are resistant to change:
- Promotion within the organization is primarily based on seniority, with little evidence of advancement or compensation being tied to performance. As a result, the organization has a concentration of long tenured senior and middle management employees.
- The magnitude of growth in size and cost of the security apparatus warrants an in depth review of its efficiency and relative effectiveness, as is currently being conducted.
- Overtime and other forms of 'add‐on' compensation resulted in an additional $20,559 per employee in 2010. Overtime expenses alone topped $85 million in 2010.
- Total 'add‐on' compensation, when combined with all other benefits, results in incremental average cost per employee equivalent to approximately 70% of base salary, a relatively high fringe benefit rate.
- 93% of employees make no contribution to their health care; by contrast, 100% of New York State and New Jersey State employees contribute to health care.
- Total cost of compensation and benefits for the average active Port Authority employee is estimated to exceed $143,000 annually.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While Steve Cuozzo, myself, and others take the Port Authority to task for the out-of-control costs for rebuilding the PATH terminal (costs rising from $2.2 billion to now $3.8 billion and rising), but the rest of the site work is a mess.
The auditor takes the position held by the Port Authority that it is owed monies by the city of New York and WTC 9/11 Museum foundation, but that’s not necessarily the case. That would add hundreds of millions of dollars more to the costs that the Port Authority can’t cover.
All this throws the agency’s capital plan into doubt, and that includes the plans to raise the Bayonne Bridge, replace the obsolete Goethals Bridge, airport improvements, and replacement of the stringers on the George Washington Bridge.
Moreover, the problems with the Port Authority are going to lead to further delays on reconstruction efforts that will in turn lead to higher costs. These are on top of the delays and problems once a master plan was settled for the Ground Zero redevelopment - problems that could have been avoided.
This is yet another reason that the Port Authority should have gotten out of the real estate business in all of its aspects. It simply cannot do what it was entrusted in doing - providing improvements to the bistate infrastructure.
The fact that the PATH hub reconstruction effort is out of control shows that the agency can’t even manage its core functions properly. After all, the Port Authority has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build three temporary stations. The first temporary station, opened in late 2003, cost $253 million. That station opened out on to Church Street and provided five tracks and three platforms. The station entrance on Church Street was then moved north to accommodate construction elsewhere within Ground Zero, but that temporary structure was also demolished and a new temporary station entrance was built at Vesey Street across from 7WTC. That’s where the present location is, but it too stands in the way of rebuilding efforts for both the loading docks for 1WTC and the performing arts center that will be built on the site.
The temporary station is currently using only three tracks and two platforms, yet it was rebuilt in 2003 with 5 tracks and 3 platforms. Why was that even necessary given the planned reconstruction and the need to demolish what was just built. Those are costs that could have been saved on both ends - in not rebuilding with the extra platform and two tracks, and the subsequent demolition that added to costs and complexity.
None of that was addressed by this particular audit, and will get short shrift at the end of the day.
Mind you, I’m a regular rider of PATH and have seen how the site is being rebuilt on a daily basis. It’s amazing to watch the structures going up all around, but knowing how much money was wasted in the process of building and subsequently demolishing what was just built is absolutely infuriating.
It is well past time to hold those involved in the process accountable.
A New Type of War
The Story of the FAA and NORAD Response to the September 11, 2001 Attacks
Team 8 of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has determined the operational facts of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) and North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) response to [the] September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as reconstructed from primary sources such as logs, tape recordings, transcripts and radar data, and corroborated in interviews with key personnel involved. Set forth in this monograph is the definitive account concerning when and how the FAA gained situational awareness that each of the four commercial aircraft was hijacked by terrorists on the morning of 9/11, when and how the FAA notified the military about each of the hijacked aircraft, and when and how the military responded. — Rutgers Law Review
As the team on the 9/11 Commission Staff responsible for reconstructing the facts of the day itself, Team 8 was scrupulous to heed the direction of Commission Chairman Kean and Vice-Chairman Hamilton that we present the facts as we found them as objectively as possible. In the closing days of our work, it became clear that the most objective way to present those facts – and to capture both the urgency with which decisions were being made that day and the level of command at which critical decision making was occurring – would be to allow, where possible, the various officials and others responsible for responding to the attacks to speak for themselves. Accordingly, the team prepared what we called an ‘audio monograph’ of critical communications from the morning of 9/11, linked by narrative and graphics placing each audio clip in context. We believed that such a rendering would be the best way to enable the public to understand what happened on 9/11 – how the day was lived by those responding to the attacks.
COMMISSION STAFF RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS REPORT
John J. Farmer, Jr., Senior Counsel & Team Leader
John A. Azzarello, Counsel
Miles L. Kara, Sr., Professional Staff Member
Kevin Shaeffer, Professional Staff Member
Geoffrey Scott Brown, Research Assistant
Dana J. Hyde, Counsel
Lisa Marie Sullivan, Staff Assistant
Charles M. Pereira, Professional Staff Member
Team 8 of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has determined the operational facts of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) and North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) response to [the] September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as reconstructed from primary sources such as logs, tape recordings, transcripts and radar data, and corroborated in interviews with key personnel involved. Set forth in this monograph is the definitive account concerning when and how the FAA gained situational awareness that each of the four commercial aircraft was hijacked by terrorists on the morning of 9/11, when and how the FAA notified the military about each of the hijacked aircraft, and when and how the military responded.
Unless otherwise noted, all times presented are rounded to the nearest minute. None of the audio excerpts in this document [was] derived from cockpit voice recorders. Where possible, individual names, phone numbers, excessive static noise, and excessive periods of ‘dead space’ have been removed from the audio excerpts. Absolutely no content within the audio excerpts has been altered.
From Air Boyd TV: Listen To 9/11 As It Unfolded - FAA NORAD Tapes
Unknown: This is a new type of war, that’s what it is.
Warning: Content may be disturbing to some individuals.
Warning: Content may be disturbing to some individuals.
Betty Ong, Flight Attendant No. 3, American Airlines Flight 11
Good summary of the five main conspiracy theories from 9/11 truthers along with rebuttals. Excerpt:
2. Collapse of the Twin Towers
The question: Why did the Twin Towers collapse so quickly, within their own footprint, after fires on a few floors that lasted only for an hour or two?
Conspiracy theorists say: The Twin Towers were destroyed by controlled demolitions. Theories relate to the rapid collapse (about 10 seconds), the relatively short-lived fires (56 minutes in World Trade Center 2 or 102 minutes in World Trade Center 1), reports of the sounds of explosions shortly before the collapse, and the violent ejections that could be seen at some windows many floors below the collapse.
Official reports say: An extensive inquiry by the National Institute of Standards and Technology concluded that the planes severed and damaged support columns and dislodged fire-proofing.
Around 10,000 gallons of jet fuel were spewed over many floors starting widespread fires. Temperatures of up to 1,000C caused the floors to sag and the perimeter columns to bend, causing the sounds of “explosions”.
The massive weight of the floors dropped, creating a dynamic load far in excess of what the columns were designed for. Debris was forced out of the windows as the floors above collapsed.
Controlled demolition is always carried out from the bottom floors up, yet this collapse started at the top.
No evidence has ever been found of explosive charges despite the extensive hand searches and there is no evidence of any pre-cutting of columns or walls, which is routinely carried out in a controlled demolition.
But of course, truthers are immune to evidence contrary to their views, simply and automatically filing it as further proof of how far the consirpacy goes 9_9 Example from the article’s comments:
I suppose all those deniers who think the US gov knew nothing of 9/11 and believe all the reports are correct unbiased versions of events also believe the same of the ‘dodgy dossier’ where we were told Iraq could launch chemical weapons in 15 min.
How many WOMD were found again someone remind me?
Lulz. This person doesn’t seem to realize they’ve refuted their own point - if the US gov’t was sophisticated and wily enough to stage 9/11 - and keep it covered up this long - why didn’t they also have the ability to fake WMD stockpiles in Iraq, instead of admitting in the end that there weren’t any?
Atheists Sue to Block Display of Cross-Shaped Beam in 9/11 Museum
By ELISSA GOOTMAN
In the days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, some workers and mourners at the World Trade Center site seized upon a cross-shaped steel beam found amid the rubble as a symbol of faith and hope.
For the past five years, the 17-foot-tall cross was displayed outside a nearby Catholic church. On Saturday it was moved again, to the site of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, where it is to be in the permanent collection.
But the move quickly provoked a lawsuit from American Atheists, a nonprofit group based in New Jersey. It argued that because the cross is a religious symbol of Christianity and the museum is partly government financed and is on government property, the cross’s inclusion in the museum violates the United States Constitution and state civil rights law. The lawsuit, in turn, provoked the ire of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative public interest law firm, as well as others.
Now, the dispute over the ‘World Trade Center cross’ is becoming the latest in a string of heated conflicts over how to memorialize the Sept. 11 attacks. It comes less than two months before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and in the wake of a feverish debate over the construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque within blocks of the trade center site.
Marc D. Stern, who is the associate general counsel of the American Jewish Committee and has long studied church-state issues, said the lawsuit presented ‘an extra-difficult case.’
The atheists’ lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, lists multiple defendants, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
‘The challenged cross constitutes an unlawful attempt to promote a specific religion on governmental land,’ the lawsuit charged.
David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said the suit’s goal was either the removal of the cross or what he called ‘equal representation.’
‘They can allow every religious position to put in a symbol of equal size and stature, or they can take it all out, but they don’t get to pick and choose,’ Mr. Silverman said.
And if atheists could put a symbol in the museum, what would it be? Perhaps an atom, Mr. Silverman suggested, ‘because we’re all made out of atoms,’ or maybe a depiction of a firefighter carrying a victim. ‘It would be about helping,’ he said. ‘It would not be derogatory against any religion or anybody.’
‘We have a responsibility at the museum to use the authentic artifacts that really came from the site itself to tell the story of not only what happened on 9/11, but the nine-month recovery period,’ he said, adding that the cross was an artifact with ‘very true meaning.’
‘It provided comfort to hundreds and hundreds of people who were working in some of the most hellish conditions imaginable,’ he said.
The Rev. Brian J. Jordan, a Franciscan priest who began holding Mass by the cross in September 2001, described the lawsuit as ‘the bizarre ramblings of angry minds.’
‘One person might pray in front of it; another person would just ignore it; another person might say, ‘What’s this all about?’ ’ he said.
The American Center for Law and Justice said it planned to file a brief in opposition to the atheist group’s lawsuit. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the group, said the suit was ‘bordering on the absurd.’
He pointed to parts of the lawsuit naming four individual atheists, who are described as having suffered ‘dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish from the knowledge that they are made to feel officially excluded from the ranks of citizens who were directly injured by the 9/11 attack.’
‘They want their day in court,’ Mr. Sekulow said. ‘I don’t think it’s going to be a long day.’
Full story is here, I’d encourage you to give it a read.
One of the Atheists involved in the lawsuit appeared on Fox News awhile back. The response was predictable. Here are some of the replies received on the Fox Facebook page after his appearance:
Nail them to that cross then display it
I think we should hang the leader of that group on the cross with nails through their hands and feet, place a crown of thorns upon their head, RAM a spear through their side all after being whipped and beaten publicly! Just so they can endure what Christ did so they understand the sacrifice behind what that cross symbolizes
(Note: The above comment got 19 “likes”)
Shoot ‘em. At least we know where they are going.
Stupid atheists. I hope God kills them all.
Any court or lawyer who takes this case should be hung!!!!!! If you look at some of the people who are atheists they are all miserable looking because they don’t have any faith in anything. You all should go live in another country, you have taken enough of my rights away.
You can see the rest of them here.
As a Christian these people disgust me. They seriously make me feel awful about my faith. The only thing that makes me keep at it is my belief what Jesus himself said and did, NOT what his followers do.
My own father is an atheist and he is certainly not “miserable looking”. He’s happily married and enjoying an early retirement and, if I may so, he did a damned good job in raising me and my brother too.
As for the lawsuit, I can understand where the Atheists are coming from. I honestly don’t see the problem with displaying the cross along with other religious emblems because not all the WTC victims are Muslim. The idea of allowing only the cross and nothing else strikes me as extremely theocratic and bigoted.
I appreciate the symbolism of the cross and think it’s an important remnant from the WTC site that should be on display somewhere, but the negative reaction to the issues raised by the group of atheists is completely disgusting.
That’s the multibillion dollar question being asked after a report released by Dr. John Howard, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, found no connection between exposures at Ground Zero and any multitude of cancers that Ground Zero responders believe to be caused by that exposure.
Dr. Howard may eventually include cancer among those illnesses reimbursed by the Fund if studies show that they are the result of exposures at Ground Zero, but it means that those suffering from cancers that they believe are attributed to exposure are out of luck.