In 1 WTC, Nation’s Problems Revealed

on 24 February, 2012

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.