It has been said that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Yet that is exactly what is happening at the World Trade Center memorial and museum and other redevelopment at Ground Zero. By all accounts, the memorial, museum, and other structures at this sacred site will continue to be above the law, exempt from basic New York City building and fire code regulations.
The Twin Towers were exempt from local regulations. We know what that meant–only three closely clustered stairwells in each tower–instead of the four minimum remotely separated stairwells required by every building code in America. How many of the 2,749 victims would have survived had safety been the primary concern? How many lives could have been saved if they only had
followed the minimum regulations?
We have been told that the memorial complex and other new structures will meet or exceed building and fire codes. Yet, the Port Authority resists showing the public the plans. Just like the memorial itself, code compliance is hidden, out of sight, and out of mind. Public safety is just that: public!
We learned more than a year ago that plans for the memorial and museum were never submitted to the New York City Buildings Department, even for a courtesy review. Yet, construction is now under way on the memorial and museum–so much for meet or exceed!
Architectural renderings of the memorial (which have never been disclosed to the public), have shown that there are only two noncompliant ramps from the underground memorial and museum structure. It is our understanding that some of the emergency exit stairwells will be located off the memorial site itself–all the way across West Street–to preserve the barren nature of the plaza!
How about preserving life? After hiking that endless, exhausting subterranean trek of never-ending corridors, think about climbing numerous flights of stairs just to get away from the disaster? How will emergency responders get down to rescue those trapped below-and how will they get the victims out?
With millions of visitors expected to come to the cavernous museum and memorial, it is likely that the issuance of tickets will be the primary means of turning away the many–to allow for the few to enter. How have emergency egress plans been prepared in this regard? Will the means of egress comply with the building code and its designated occupant load of how many people can actually occupy the space? Or will the egress only be capable of handling the artificial ticket limits? What
happens when the inevitable pressure is applied to increase the numbers of visitors who can visit? Will the egress capacity be increased? And how could that be corrected after the structure is literally cast in concrete?
It is up to New York Governor Elliott Spitzer and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine to solve this problem once and for all! Both have stated that Homeland Security is their top priority. They can put real action to words by ensuring that the entire World Trade Center site truly strives to the highest levels of safety and security. Order the Port Authority to give up its immunities from the city’s fire and building codes. Order them to follow the rules just like everyone else. Order transparency to be the rule of the day. Order the WTC memorial and museum complex to be put under the legal jurisdiction of NYC Building and Fire Departments. Stop the code-deficiency insult to those lost on 9/11 by stopping a repeat of history! No NYC buildings-especially the WTC with its memorial and museum-should be above the law!
Skyscraper Safety Campaign: Sally Regenhard, Chair: 646-266-1987/Professor Glenn Corbett, Chief Technical Advisor: 201-993-2814