Terror trial stimulus at the W.T.C. 

By David Stanke

The fear machine is engaged. Potential victims are taking to the streets (and Community Board 1 meetings).  The politicians are racing to the soapboxes to serve their traditional role as megaphones for people who just can’t deal.  It is a great shame because if the trials are moved, Downtown stands to lose so much.  We are overlooking the perfect location to host the trials.  America must try the terrorists right here, in Lower Manhattan — 90 feet below ground in the bowels of the World Trade Center site.  

Downtown really needs a piece of the $200 million per year federal terrorist trial stimulus program.  America is not a country willing to sacrifice for principles.  In America, principles are constructed to justify convenience.  We had better get some principles together real fast if we want the funds.

It is an American tradition that those who are willing to do the work that others disdain, profit down the line.  Hauling trash builds mansions; a dry cleaner can support an extended family.  Hosting the 9/11 trials will uphold the greatest of American traditions: in every dirty, stinking mess there is a way to make a buck.

America believes that the risk is great. Al Qaeda put bombs in two new articles of clothing and cracked a shrink.  This is a brilliant, determined, and powerful opponent and we need to make the most of them.  The U.S. has invaded and is rebuilding two countries. Cost is no object and if we take on a little risk, the reward could be $300 million per year.

The W.T.C. is perfectly suited for this task.  It has languished for years.  Commercial office towers are just not viable.  The W.T.C. cannot legally support residential property.  This fallow ground will sit unutilized for another 10 years.  The terrorist trials can finally break this paralysis.

On the site, there are two city blocks with no action and no prospects.  Make one a terrorist prison and the other a stadium size Federal courtroom.  The facilities would be secure 90 feet below ground.  The space would allow seating for tens of thousands, with perhaps even some box seats with food service for trial viewing comfort.

With the Downtown business district in crisis, we don’t need the expanded Path station.  Modify Path to make it a transportation provider for the trials.  The Port Authority can build the W.T.C. security center at the Path entrance in New Jersey, avoiding the Deutsche Bank building.  W.T.C. bus parking could be located in New Jersey.  The entire nasty infrastructure could be dumped on New Jersey.  We would just get tens of thousands of energized, justice-hungry terror tourists with dollars to spend.

 Security costs would drop to nothing.  Post a few military snipers with assault rifles and surface to air missiles in surrounding office towers and we’ll be safer than we were before 9/11.  The city is already making the W.T.C. a hardened security bunker.  There are no streets, so there will be no street closings.  The security funds can instead support those few businesses that might be inconvenienced.  Four hundred million dollars a year buys a lot of dumplings and pizza slices. 

The Port Authority is an expert with temporary structures.  The massive artifacts of the 9/11 attacks will provide the perfect Hollywood backdrop for the trials. Surcharges on trial tickets will cover costs and keep the water flowing at the W.T.C. memorial. 

 The site also has legal advantages. The W.T.C. is not part of N.Y.C., New York State, or New Jersey.  Does it even fall within Federal jurisdiction?  It is, like Guantanamo, a unique American real estate asset.  Like the C.I.A. in undisclosed foreign interrogation facilities, the Port writes its own rules.  Courts at the W.T.C. will be able to do what it takes to convict and punish the terrorists.

The trials can be broadcast, a blend of reality TV and the Olympics.  Networks will pay billions for the rights.  Every time a terrorist rants, ratings will soar and stocks will rise.  Industry execs will buy champagne and cigars and party in the streets of Lower Manhattan.  They can fill the void left as bankers move with the financial industry to more friendly locations in Asia and the Middle East.  A feeble terrorist plot every couple years will perpetuate the system.  It is precisely what the networks crave: cheap programming.

Terrorists chose New York for its media visibility.   Let’s use their strategy against them.  Networks will disempower and embarrass the terrorists by turning them into a cheap made-for-TV spectacle.  Critics and commentators can rake their performances.  Audiences will grow numb to the outlandish claims to world dominance and divine rewards.  Political spinners will assault them from the right and the left.  We will milk them for all they are worth twice a day from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m.  We won’t even need to convict them.  If they walk, they will be the laughing stock of the terrorist community.  And we will have conquered our fears in a uniquely American way, with profits we can take to the bank.  And everyone Downtown will just sit back and enjoy the $500 million a year ride.

 David Stanke lives and writes Downtown. His email is destanke@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter at davestanke.