SILVERSTEIN SUFFERS SETBACK IN 9-11 SUIT AGAINST AIRLINES
By Peter Duveen
PETER'S NEW YORK, December 12,
2008--A judge ruled yesterday that Larry Silverstein can only attempt
to recover $2.8 million from airlines he alleges shared responsibility
for the World Trade Center disaster of 2001, commonly referred to as
9-11, the New York Post reports.
Alvin Hellerstein, U.S. district court judge for the Southern District
of New York, ruled that Silverstein, leaseholder for the property on
which the World Trade Center stood, can only sue to recover the fair
market value of his lease, and not the entire $16.2 million that would
include the value of four office towers of the World Trade Center
complex that were destroyed on 9-11.
On the morning of September 11, 2001,
two airliners crashed into each of the twin towers of the World Trade
Center in New York City. Two other airliners are alleged to have
crashed that same morning into the Pentagon building in Arlington,
Virginia, and into a field in Pennsylvania.
The U.S. government contends that the
planes were piloted by a team of 19 Middle Eastern men who carried out
the attack for religious reasons. Critics of the government's version
charge that the government itself staged the attacks in an elaborate
ruse designed to provide a pretext for the subsequent invasions and
occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and to justify the imposition of a
domestic security apparatus that violates citizens' constitutionally
Some critics point to the lack of
positively identifiable aircraft debris at the Pentagon and
Pennsylvania crash sites as evidence airliners may not have been
involved in those incidents. They also assert that aircraft impacts
alone could not account for the extent of the damage to the World Trade
Center site. The Bush administration has attempted to defend itself
against the charges by promoting media supportive of its version of
events, and by encouraging the crafting of federal legislation that
would penalize critics by classifying them as "homegrown terrorists."
Silverstein did not appear to be
hurting from the momentary setback, as last week he signed a German
bank for the top three floors of the recently completed Building 7,
which opened in 2006. The Post reported that, as of
the signing of the new lease with WestLB, Building 7
has achieved an occupancy rate of 83 percent.
Controversy surrounds the original
47-story Building 7, which mysteriously collapsed in a matter of
seconds into its own footprint on the afternoon of 9-11. An elaborate
explanation of the collapse, the outcome of a multi-million dollar
study conducted by the government's National Institute of Standards and
Technology, blamed a freak structural failure triggered by fires
ignited by falling debris from the collapses of the nearby twin towers.
Critics once again have surfaced, pointing to Silverstein's remarks
after the collapse that a decision was made to "pull" the building, a
term they say refers to a controlled demolition of the structure.
Silverstein counters that his remarks have been misinterpreted. NIST
admits that it it did not conduct tests for signs of explosive charges
or incendiaries critics say may have brought down the building.
Previous to the events of 9-11, no high-rise steel office tower had
ever collapsed due to fires of any duration.
Silverstein has already collected more
than $4 billion paid by insurance companies from which he had taken out
polices on the structures against terrorist acts shortly before
Silverstein announced his original
suit in March, naming American Airlines, United Airlines, Continental
Airlines and Boeing Co., as well as the managers of Boston's Logan
International Airport, MassPort, according to previously published news
accounts. Silverstein charged that breaches in airline security allowed
the alleged hijackers to commandeer the airliners and fly them into the
World Trade Center towers.
In an earlier suit Silverstein singled out Citigroup Inc., which leased extensive office space in the original Building 7, with responsibility for the building's destruction,
citing a 6,000-gallon supply of diesel fuel the company maintained
for use in an emergency power system. Silverstein charged that the fuel
contributed to the fires in the building and its subsequent
collapse. Hellerstein ruled in 2005 that Citigroup was protected from
liability by covenants in the its lease with Silverstein.
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