Sen. Schumer speaks out on Transit Hub fireproofing

December 22, 2011 3:01:27 PM PST
There are calls for action after an Eyewitness News investigation reveals the Port Authority has decided not to fireproof a large portion of the new Transit Hub at the World Trade Center site.

There are calls for Governors Cuomo and Christie to step in and force the Port Authority to fireproof the Transit Hub that will be used by some 200,000 people every day.

The Port Authority's decision to cut-out costly fireproofing for a major part of the massive steel World Trade Center Transit Hub drew a quick and angry response from a Deputy FDNY Chief of 31 years.

"It's appalling that they could even consider that. It's the number 1 terrorist target; you have 200,000 people every day. They are putting money ahead of lives and safety and I think it's a disgrace," said Jim Riches, a Deputy FDNY Chief (ret.)

Recently retired, Jim Riches not only responded to the towers on 9/11, he also lost his firefighter son when the North Tower collapsed sooner, some experts say, than it should have because of inadequate fireproofing.

Eyewitness News' investigation reveals most of the winged structure of the transit center will have no fireproofing.

The Port Authority decided it is unnecessary after conducting tests based on a fire equal to "Two-to-three closely spaced passenger cars."

A fire safety expert with John Jay College says the testing is seriously flawed.

"As a former code enforcement official I wouldn't have accepted it. I think again they would have had to demonstrate much larger worse case scenarios that are really unfortunately very possible here at ground zero," said Glenn Corbett, a fire safety expert.

A year ago, when Eyewitness News began investigating safety issues at the transit hub, the Port Authority's then Executive Director Chris Ward insisted that it would be fireproofed.

"The Port Authority has the highest standards for the safety of all its facilities. We wouldn't compromise a structure like the Transit Hub in terms of fireproofing in the least," said Chris Ward, Fmr. Port Authority Executive Director.

What's changed since then? Mostly huge cost overruns which one source tells Eyewitness News played a part in eliminating the $25 million dollar fireproofing job.

But the Port Authority insists, "The high volume of the space and robustness of the (steel) structure,'' means the center will "meet or exceed" city building codes.

New York's Senior Senator says, where's the common sense?

"Seems to me in a place that's going to have tens of thousands of people and a great deal of danger that it ought to be fireproofed," Sen. Charles Schumer said.

"They're endangering everyone's lives and they're lying to the public and I'll say that and Gov. Christie and Gov. Cuomo should get involved," Riches said.


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