In 1 WTC, Nation’s Problems Revealed

The destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on September 11, 2001 was both a physical attack on an American landmark, and an attack against America’s economic and political identity. Recovery from the physical strike, however delayed by bureaucratic infighting, is finally proceeding as One World Trade Center rises to reoccupy the skyline of Manhattan’s southern tip. However, a moral recovery is far from being represented in this new structure — which is largely taxpayer subsidized, nefariously occupied, and produced overseas.

To start, the $3.3 billion building, the most expensive office building in history, is largely taxpayer subsidized. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a quasi-governmental organization, is in charge of construction. To support the enormous costs of the building, the Port Authority raised the already high tolls on a number of bridges and tunnels used daily by commuting workers going to and from Manhattan and Staten Island.

At One World Trade Center, higher tolls for commuting workers are being used to subsidize lower rent for a massive corporation. Condé Nast, the publishing company which produces Vogue and 17 other high-end magazines, signed on as the building’s first tenant. According to The New York Times’ Joe Nocera, Condé Nast’s rent is half of the rate required for the building to simply break even  — not to mention making a profit.

Further, the Port Authority will take over the contract on Condé Nast’s previous headquarters at 4 Times Square. If the Port Authority is unable to find another corporation to occupy the building, taxpayers will again be left to foot the bill until that contract expires in 2019.

How was such a sweet deal negotiated? Largely, it was an inside job. The Durst Organization, which owns Condé Nast’s Times Square building, bought into 1 WTC to the tune of $100 million. As building manager for 1 WTC, Durst arranged the Condé Nast deal. According to a Democracy Now report, that crony arrangement earned Douglas Durst a $25 million kickback.

Besides Condé Nast, 1 WTC will also be the new home to the China Center, an organization dedicated to the advancement of Chinese cultural and business interests in the United States. Although international cohesion is an important goal, the China Center’s presence in what has been heralded as an icon of American resilience and independence is more than ironic. The Chinese firms promoted by the China Center will unfairly compete with American businesses thanks to the subsidies provided by the Chinese government. Such an advancement of Chinese business interests is an inappropriate goal, considering America’s own uncertain economic recovery.

In fact, this context high unemployment and a faltering economy underscores the need for increased manufacturing in America. Despite the need for new American jobs, major materials for the new tower were manufactured abroad. Much of the tower’s structural steel, as well as its elevators, are being produced by a German firm. Blast-resistant glass on the lower floors of WTC was produced in China after a Pennsylvania-based firm was outbid.

Recovering from September 11 has been about promoting America’s best traits. That mission failed when it came to One World Trade Center. Instead, 1 WTC reveals some of our worst national qualities; crony capitalism at the expense of taxpayers, and the pursuit of the lowest cost over national interest. The tower should serve not only as a reminder of our progress in the last decade, but also as a demonstration of the deep societal flaws that we have yet to address.


    Share Your Thoughts


  1. says

    You can’t complain that the taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill, and then also complain that they chose the cheapest alternative in construction. Producing in the US, will mean larger subsidization by the taxpayers.

  2. says

    Kyle, taxpayer subsidies could have been used to make up the difference between higher costs (i.e. using building materials produced in America) or lower profits (i.e. reduced rent for Conde Nast). My critique is that these subsidies, if they are appropriate at all, were used to promote a private corporation’s bottom line rather than national interest.

  3. David Stanke says

    You can’t complain about American subsidies of business being bad at the same time you complain about how Chinese subsidies for their businesses make them stronger. There are some good points in this article, but a lot of unresolved contradictions.

  4. Bernie Goetz says

    Some of the foreign contracts (like the Libeskind design contract, Chinese glass contract and Calatrava design contract) are tacky and questionable. However the foreign contracts are minor compared to the billions that have been squandered on the project domestically. And the project is far from done. If Donald Trump had oversight of the project there wouldn’t have been a doubling of costs. Then again, he wouldn’t have allowed the present impractical plan to be built. The project does reveal problems with morality and competency in New York government and the Port Authority.

  5. says

    The China Center mentioned in this article is owned by Vantone Holdings. We filed a freedom of information request from the Port Authority and discovered that the PA will get an percentage of sales profits from the China Center tenant. I am president of The Vantone Group New York real estate company and we are the U.S. Trademark owners of the “Vantone” name and mark. We suspect that the China Center will sublet at least one of their floors to their Chinese parent company Vantone Holdings with the Port Authorities approval and will engage in direct trademark infringement of our Vantone mark. We discovered this after a freedom of information request and were ignored. Only when we filed a lawsuit did the PA comply. The following are links from the Port Authority that have our Freedom of information requests and a copy of the executed lease.