Volume 44, Issue 4 - April 2009

Issue @ Hand

Shame and Blame

It’s not often that a report in a trade publication sparks a call for action from a United States Senator, but that is exactly what happened as a result of our article on page 30 of this issue.

The story by Tara Taffera first appeared on our online news service, USGNN.com™, on March 31, as the result of a two-month special investigation. It details the surprising way in which the contract for the first 20 floors of glass in the Freedom Tower (now known as One World Trade Center) was awarded in New York.

It is not unusual for manufacturers and fabricators to work with an architect and building owner in the design phase. In this case, the lengths to which these companies went to develop glass that would meet the security and aesthetic preparation was heroic. PPG even had a line retooled to produce the never-before-made thicker version of its Starphire glass. 

So what happened? Sources say the building’s owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), put the glazing contract out to rebid. In an effort to get the job, one of the original glazing contractor bidders who was high on the first go-round provided much of the details of the glass design work to an offshore company, which in turn was able to come in with a lower bid. By shaving cost in a number of areas, this glazing contractor was ultimately awarded the job. And the glass was awarded to an offshore supplier that was able to make it cheaper.

Of course they were. They are providing the moral equivalent of a knock-off product with none of the creativity, design or upfront costs these companies had. Makes you wonder if there is any morality left in the construction business.

The New York press picked up on the story immediately with an understandable emphasis on the safety and security issues. By the end of day March 31, a full report had been aired on ABC News in New York, including a call by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for the contract to be rescinded.

“It’s astounding to us that they would take a project with this level of development work, that we all invested in prior to its completion, and one with this level of visibility, i.e. the Freedom Tower, and bid that offshore,” PPG senior vice president Vicki Holt told ABC News.

For its part, the building’s owner, PANYNJ, says that it will continue to send representatives to China to monitor the glass manufacturing. 

To me, the real issue is not where the glass is made. The issue is that it is being made by anyone other than those who developed the new thickness and helped engineer it. These companies invested hundreds of thousands of dollars only to see their work handed to a competitor.

No police department in this country lost as many officers in a single incident as did the PANYNJ Police Department on September 11, 2001. Shame on them for not caring about fairness and equality. That should matter to all of us.


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