When the New York Post ran its exclusive story on 16-year-old Justin Casquejo, who made his way to the top of the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower, an angry friend of mine fired off a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Now that helmet camera video has surfaced of three daredevils leaping off the same tower six months earlier, his blunt yet diplomatic fax to Albany takes on a new sense of urgency.
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Albany NY 12224
March 20, 2014
Subject: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Dear Governor Cuomo:
I am a former United States diplomat who has spent much of the past 15 years back in my beloved Manhattan.
A teenager has breached the defenses of one of the most fortified buildings in the United States, 1 World Trade Center.
Our three airports are the laughingstock of the United States, known best for excessive delays, underwhelming facilities, general ineptitude, and regular reports of thefts from luggage.
I need not mention the recent George Washington Bridge affair.
Perhaps it is time for you to demand additional management controls and performance measurements over this agency, which it seems by any reasonable assessment is not succeeding.
Kind thanks for your attention.
My friend has yet to hear back from Cuomo’s office. But he’s patient. He realizes that it might take at least two weeks for the form letter of a response to arrive. If it arrives.
The Port Authority is the agency everyone in New York and New Jersey loves to hate. And with good reason, as my friend outlined above. It should be mentioned that it has its own police force, a force that clearly isn’t doing a good job of helping to protect the nation’s tallest building, which sits at the site of a building complex terrorists attacked in 2001 and 1993.
Casquejo and the three men whose September 2013 jump was first caught by cameras at Goldman Sachs — James Brady, Marko Markovich and Andrew Rossig — slipped through a hole or holes in the fence at the Freedom Tower site. Brady, Markovich, Rossig and Kyle Hartwell, who served as lookout, were arrested and charged Monday with burglary, reckless endangerment and jumping from a structure.
To be fair, the security breach by Casquejo last week involved not only hapless Port Authority cops. Even though the agency owns the property, the New York Police Department and a private security firm are also tasked with keeping an eye on the terrorist target. The New York Post reports that the private security guard on the 104th floor was fast asleep when the teen slipped through. That guard was fired. Other heads ought to roll.
Chairman David Samson was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). That’s working out real well for him now that he figures prominently in the Bridge-gate scandal. Patrick Foye, the agency’s executive director appointed by Cuomo, is the one who ended the lane closures immediately after finding out about them four days later. This should give you a feel for the flavor of dysfunction at the bi-state agency.
“The Port Authority joins the NYPD in condemning this lawless and selfish act that clearly endangered the public,” Port Authority Chief Security Officer Joseph Dunne said in a statement. “It should be clear that the PAPD and NYPD will go to any length to bring those who defile the WTC site to justice.”
Pity Dunne and his agency seem incapable of going to any length to ensure the site is not defiled in the first place. Oh, and Dunne’s insistence on using the NYPD as a human shield in that statement was a naked attempt to share the blame. New York’s Finest have been working overtime since Sept. 11, 2001, to keep all of the Big Apple safe. As these two high-profile security breaches show, it’s the Port Authority that everyone should be worried about.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj