Ward Boss: He Resurrected Ground Zero, But Can Chris Ward Save Himself?

chris ward ground zero june 2011 Ward Boss: He Resurrected Ground Zero, But Can Chris Ward Save Himself?[/caption]When The Observer asked how Mr. Ward manages all these disparate projects, even he struggled to explain it. “I feel like I’m being psycho-analyzed,” he said. 

“People always make a big deal about, oh, you went to Harvard Divinity School,” Mr. Ward said of his masters degree–earned after a stint on an oil rig. “All that means to me is an ability to bring interested, intellectual capacity to problem solving. And I guess maybe that’s what it is. People respond to my ability to create an analytical or intellectual framework to solve problems.”

Sometime he turns to more unorthodox methods.

Within weeks of taking over the Port three years ago, with years of warring factions and bureaucratic inertia set against him, Mr. Ward’s first order of business was creating a new timeline for ground zero. The fact that he would be pushing deadlines out and costs up made no one happy, and it cast the new executive director as a hardheaded sheriff—and a bit of an outlaw. The day before the agency was preparing to release its five-month-long status report, the details were leaked to The Journal.

There had been some debate about whether or not to release specific schedules and budgets, but according to a Port Authority official who was working on the report, Mr. Ward felt the need for some transparency. “He just thought the best thing to do was put those numbers out and then beat them,” this person said.

His courting of the press then and since has chafe at some of his subordinates. Reporters have been known to contact developers or brokers at the site for tours, and upon checking in with the Port’s press office for a simple comment, find themselves following in Mr. Ward’s booted footsteps across the site. A good number of agency staffers feel Mr. Ward was claiming too much of the spotlight, with a penchant to misrepresent facts at the site, but the feeling from the top is that a unified command is a stronger command. Whether or not the site would have right itself on its own, to say it has been turned around by the boss and his team makes for a better narrative.

“This is a media town, so that is another one of my constituencies,” Mr. Ward said.

“He’s a little bit of a crazy, off-the-wall cowboy,” the Port Authority official said. “He is one of those people who believes, what’s the saying? It’s better to apologize than ask permission.” Under Mr. Paterson—whom Mr. Ward calls the “unsung hero of the World Trade Center”—those maverick tendencies were largely tolerated. He even stood by him when the Port took a gamble on arbitration last year against Silverstein Properties, a move that caused many, including the mayor, to call for Mr. Ward’s resignation.

But it is unclear how well a cowboy might coexist with Mr. Cuomo, who tends to take a much more active role in his administration.

Comments

  1. Guest says:

    No good deed goes unpunished, and in our pathetic political era, no effective manager lasts long. 

    Ward’s problem is his competence.   Cuomo and Christie want the Port Authority head to be a pliant hack. 

    They want to be able to raid the Port Authority’s finances to pay for other projects.  NY governors have done this to the MTA, robbing dedicated transit funds to plug State budget caps. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    You got the name backwards: It’s
    not Ward Boss — it’s Boss Ward and the article couldn’t be more glowing if he
    had written it himself.

     

    Five years ago, an Alicia Colon
    column on the efforts of The Twin Towers Alliance appeared in the New York Sun and
    concluded: “So far, the will of the people hasn’t amounted to much in this
    city — but there’s always a first time.”

     

    The main reason that what most of
    us wanted and still do — new state-of-the-art Twin Towers instead of a
    deformed skyline — is squarely the result of journalistic malpractice.

     

    The enormity of officials’
    miscarriage of justice and the media’s miscarriage of judgment would become
    painfully clear, if it were possible to put on 3-D glasses and see what would
    be standing there now — for far less than the Mutt and Jeff towers and Twin
    Stumps will cost the public — if only the will of the people had been respected instead of rejected.  

     

    Far from there having been
    difficulty in achieving a consensus following the attacks, there was a powerful
    consensus across all demographics, including Metro New Yorkers, downtown
    residents, first responders, 9/11 Families, 9/11 survivors, and a majority of
    citizens across the country (not to mention, support from around the world) for
    defying the gravity of 9/11 by repairing what could be repaired. 

     

    That was the organic, intuitive
    response that would have brought healing to the world’s shell-shocked
    psyche.  It had the added credential of
    being the Israelis’ standard counter-terrorism response to attacks — encourage the people by nullifying
    the visible evidence and take away the terrorists’ bragging rights as soon as humanly possible.

     

    In July, 2002, while we were still suffering
    from the concussion of the attacks, the New York Post did a poll and declared
    that “Half of New York Wants the Twin Towers Back.”  By 2009, 90% of respondents in a national
    MSNBC poll voted to switch from the Freedom Tower plan to the elegant, fully
    designed “Twin Towers II.” Who reported that?

     

    The only lack of consensus was within
    a powerful, well-financed minority that wanted to control the future of the
    site, even though they had no more or less right to the public property than anyone else. What gave them the overwhlming advantage is that the media ate out of their hands.
    But the
    twisted, byzantine process that was devised to defeat what the people wanted,
    replace it with what they did not want, and make them pay for it, backfired and
    progress was non-existent until a man who had demonstrated how conniving and effective
    he could be at the Croton Water Filtration Plant was put in charge — and promptly
    put the site on steroids.

     

    Is there a column in the Observer’s
    archives — or anywhere else — on the DOI’s investigation into Bronx Assemblyman
    Dinowtz’s charges of dishonesty and misconduct by Christopher Ward’s Department of Environmental Protection at the  Croton Water Filtration Plant? There is not, because there was no
    investigation. You won’t find a single inquiry into why the detailed, 67-page
    report filed in 2007 was quashed — even though it was co-signed by, among
    others, current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

     

    But it was probably the hardball
    tactics employed be DEP Director Ward in forcing the filtration plant into the Bronx
    instead of the far less costly, more feasible, Westchester location that was
    his ticket into the Port Authority – where might has definitely overcome
    right.

     

    We at the Twin Towers Alliance have documented
    his lies and distortions and have never been challenged because our charges are true. So now that the public has been raped in the Bronx
    and raped at Ground Zero you seem to think he deserves to be Executive-Director-for-Life, when
    what would really be fitting is an investigation into his record and methods, resulting in
    his dismissal with the forfeiture of his pension — or worse.

     

    It would be hard to overstate how
    ineptly this has been handled. It’s the too-big-to-fail swindle all over again.
    It would have been far less expensive to have built new Twin Towers and let them
    stand empty for all these years. At least we could have lit them every night to
    restore the nation’s confidence. 

    That
    still might be all it takes to turn our nationwide losing streak around.  The only reason the World Trade
    Center looks the way it does today is because officials have foisted a plan on
    the public through deceit that the people would never have accepted and paid for if informed.

    It would be hard to exaggerate how
    misinformed the public, and many journalists, are about what really has taken
    place at the site. There has been a gross abuse of power. It is impossible to subvert the will of the people and at
    the same time uphold the Constitution.   
    And it is impossible to wink at
    officials’ abuse of power and retain control of our democracy. If all officials
    have to do is trick us into letting them have their way, we are cooked. That’s
    why we keep on bearing a burden that the media by rights should be bearing. We
    are asking the questions they owe it to the people to ask.

    It would be hard to exaggerate how
    misinformed the public, and many journalists, are about what really has taken
    place at the site. There has been a gross abuse of power. It is impossible to subvert the will of the people and at
    the same time uphold the Constitution.   
    And it is impossible to wink at
    officials’ abuse of power and retain control of our democracy. If all officials
    have to do is trick us into letting them have their way, we are cooked. That’s
    why we keep on bearing a burden that the media by rights should be bearing. We
    are asking the questions they owe it to the people to ask.

     

    The way our dozens of Freedom of
    Information requests have been mishandled over the past year suggests that
    officials think they have nothing to worry about — but we think they will
    discover that they are wrong about that — especially Boss Ward.  When Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie examine
    the record we can expect a correction because they are both leaders.

    The public doesn’t need the media’s advocacy — just its honesty in supplying the facts that the people have been denied for ten years. It would upset Michael “My Way or the Highway Bloomberg” and Howard “Strategic Communications” Rubenstein, but it would win someone a Pulitzer Prize. By the way, how could you really
    think that Austin Tobin is smiling down on the man who had it in his power to
    reclaim Tobin’s greatest legacy and trashed it instead? When we sat in his
    office in September, 2008, we told him of a plan that would be almost finished
    by now if he had done a feasibility study instead of burying it.

     

    If there was nothing to our claims,
    they would have been discredited.  But he
    was afraid to establish that the safest, greenest, towers with the fastest
    elevators and tallest spire could have taken the form of 21st-century Twin
    Towers for less public expense than the current, dismal plan.

     

    It was not in his job description
    to ignore a fully designed plan that was far more popular than the official
    plan and that promised to save billions of dollars and years of time. The only
    responsible way to handle it was a cost/benefit analysis that would have
    determined the best use of the public’s funds.

    Austin Tobin’s was known for the motto: “Dream no
    small dreams for they have no power to stir the blood of men.” But we are
    paying for Ward’s, and Pataki’s, and Bloomberg’s, and Silverstein’s puny dreams instead.
    Thanks for nothing…

  3. Jgcitygin says:

    “Resurrect?”
    HAH!!!
    That’s like our Lord coming back with His head placed backwards and missing His arms.

    What is this? A cynical concept from the media? Feed the people —- and they’ll swallow it?
    Not this New Yorker! This whole plan is a hideous, arrogant stench-ridden abomination, from the two abysmal voids to the lack of Twin Towers.

  4. guest says:

    Hi Matt

    AC is exactly right to get rid of Ward.  The WTC is BILLIONS over even the $9 billion that Ward included in his whitewash report from a few years ago.  (Reporters- check for numbers and ask hard questions.  All of the projects are way over budget.  The Freedom Tower, the Hub, the Memorial, the Vehicle Screening Center.  All of them.  If someone gave me $4 billion extra to build the WTC I could do it too.  And the Hub meanwhile is many years behind schedule.  We’ll be lucky to see it done by 2016.  Why does Chris Ward get away with it?  For one thing the NYO publishes articles more suited to People magazine instead of doing actual investigative reporting.  For another if anyone dares question Ward or his minions he throws a hissy fit, calls people names and trashes them in public.  Boss Ward indeed.

    Ward hasn’t just spent NY’s money  He’s given away the rest of the Port Authority’s money to Chris Christie for road projects and budget stuffers that have nothing to do with the Port Authority.  The New Jersey team at the PANYNJ are cleaning up the floor with money and staff because all Ward cares about is being able to stick around long enough to say he rescued the WTC.  So what does Governor Cuomo do with this self-glorifying idiot who’s treating the WTC as his own vanity project.  He keeps Ward around until the anniversary and ditches him afterwards  Smart move Gov.