Save the Condé Nast Maidens!
Don't lock them up in the WTC Tower of Terror.
The Devil wears Kevlar? Die Hard— With a Blusher? "Hazmat: This spring's must-have fabric!"
I'm sorry: It's not a joke. The hard-to-believe decision by magazine empire Condé Nast (publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired, and Glamour, among others) to move the city's hot center of creative talent from its current Times Square headquarters to the never-ending security nightmare known as "Freedom Tower" at Ground Zero, may be one of the single most questionable corporate decisions in New York City history.
Oh, forgive me, right, did I say "Freedom Tower"? Sorry, the 1776-foot tall (take that, al-Qaida! 1776 in yo' face!) replacement for the Twin Towers has been renamed! The false bravado of "Freedom Tower"—especially for a building whose security precautions will make it more like a supermax prison tower—has been replaced (in 2009) by the dignified, nonprovocative reticence of "One World Trade Center." (The new thinking, I guess: no use in unduly provoking al-Qaida—after all, they hate our freedoms!)
The name change has not diminished the folly of the whole building-as-symbolic-gesture, nor has it eliminated the fear factor in forcing thousands of middle-class and working-class employees to serve as live bait in World Terrorist Target No. 1. (Why not name it that?) Because the security concerns that were there from the beginning have not gone away, and the fixes for the flaws in the security have not been proven, and the site planners have been shown over and over again to be shockingly, scandalously inept.
What were they thinking at Condé Nast? Make a grand defiant gesture of their corporate boldness to the world? That seems to be the message of the blue-sky-filled full-page ads they've taken out in newspapers that proclaim the Terror Tower buy-in with the phrase "See You Downtown." Is the idea that no terrorist would dare risk Condé Nast's paralyzing death ray: an Anna Wintour frown?
Of course, such grand gestures by big shots (did they consult their employees about how they felt about being moved into World Terrorist Target No. 1?) often don't work out so well for the ordinary folk who must back them up. I'm thinking of the crews of the Titanic and the Hindenburg, for instance. Doesn't Condé Nast know the sketchy security history of this foolish project? Haven't they wondered why Mayor Bloomberg has not rushed to install his minions in World Terrorist Target No. 1?
I began writing about this six years ago when the NYPD counterterrorism squad, the best in the business, spoke about the dangers surrounding the emperor's new skyscraper. Things quieted down after some cosmetic fixes, but suddenly the confluence of the Condé Nast lease pledge (1 million square feet!) and a disturbing floor plan leak once again brought to the fore the folly and danger this unnecessary gift to terrorists represents.
The leak serves to spotlight, through the fog of sycophantic rah-rah media coverage, the comic-if-it-were-not-tragic nearsightedness demonstrated by the bureaucrats in charge.
These two events were accompanied by the fiasco of the "prism glass" (more anon) and the "Oops, we forgot the bathrooms" idiocy at the 9/11 museum. You may have missed, in the blizzard of screw-ups, the fact that the site's National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum—future destination point for thousands of busloads of schoolchildren—failed to provide a single restroom. Just another instance demonstrating the subprime intelligence of the site planners. If Ground Zero is not a national scandal by now, it should be, especially with all the 9/11 10th Anniversary sentimentality coming up. Meanwhile, Freedom Tower 2.0's completion date has been pushed back for the umpteenth time, now to 2013. Don't hold your breath. These are not the whip-smart people you want to trust your loved ones' safety with when people all over the world are plotting to kill them in their workplace.
Did you (did Condé Nast?) miss reading about the "confidential" floor plan leak last month? Documents marked "confidential" and containing floor plans for One World Trade Center were posted and made available to terrorists on New York City's website by mistake in May. Something revealed, conveniently, after the Condé Nast deal had been announced.
Well, al-Qaida has no reason lately for renewed interest in the World Trade Center anyway. That's so 2001. Oh, right.
According to WCBS news radio, here are the truly scary details:
There are 17 documents stamped confidential showing every nook and cranny—including load-bearing walls, mechanical rooms, and ground floor entrances—of the still under construction tower in Lower Manhattan.
That concerns counterterrorism expert Makie Haberfeld of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
"This absolutely gives the potential terrorist the blueprint of how to enter, how to defend themselves if there is a counterattack against them," she says. "I think it's in a way irresponsible on the part of the organizations that decided to that."
She says the documents provide a basis for a Mumbai-style attack.
Have the Condé Nast big shots talked to her? You know, just for a second opinion from an unbiased (non-real-estate-hustler) source?
Oh, but, hey, no worries, bro, the Port Authority (the New York/New Jersey entity that owns Ground Zero) said that the really super secret "confidential" details of the floor plan (forget the "load-bearing walls"; do the terrorists know where the snack kitchens will be located?) had been "scrubbed" from the 17 documents and that the docs should not have been labeled "confidential." That's reassuring. Everyone knows terrorists aren't interested in "load-bearing walls." And the attitude of the planners is What, me worry? It's OK if a document marked "confidential" gets posted on the Web.
Besides, the 9/11 attackers didn't try a "Mumbai style" attack—invading buildings and killing with automatic weapons firepower—on 9/11, so we don't have to worry about one now, right? They always use the same method on any given building, right? Of course, there was that 1993 basement bomb in the WTC, but, still ...
And, as for an aerial attack, like last time, well, maybe the original pre-"scrubbed," "confidential" documents showed the emplacements for the anti-aircraft guns built into the load bearing walls—the very walls the building will have to defend if the sleepy FAA and NORAD can't scramble jets quickly enough, as they failed to do last time.
So, rest easy, Condé Nasties, they got you covered from almost every angle except ground, air, and underground attack in this incredibly supersafe building.
In fact, it's the safest building in the world! Well, almost. Here's what usually savvy NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly (probably under pressure from real estate types) had to say about it last December. See if you find it reassuring:
Landlords, managing agents and tenants will change over time, but the threat to the World Trade Center will persist, as demonstrated by al-Qaida's 2006 plot to set off explosives in the PATH tubes and flood the World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan. Rather than give way to this threat, the NYPD and the Port Authority are working together to make the World Trade Center the safest work environment in the world.
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.
Artist's rendering of One World Trade Center by dbox, inc./Getty Images.