On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted a proposed ballot initiative being backed by September 11 conspiracy theorists, but the measure may end up going before voters regardless of what the mayor, or anyone else in city government, has to say about it. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
The old 7 World Trade Center building housed offices for the CIA, Secret Service and the city's Office of Emergency Management. So when it caught fire and collapsed on September 11, 2001, it spawned a cottage industry of conspiracy theories.
"I very much doubt whether fire could have brought that building down," said Ted Walter, whose group, the High Rise Safety Initiative, wants to put the issue to voters with a ballot referendum requiring the city's Department of Buildings to conduct an investigation.
"It's a full-blown campaign," Walter said.
Indeed, the group has raised money, hired a top election attorney, submitted 67,000 petition signatures, with plans to submit 33,000 more, and is quickly gaining attention.
"From what I've heard of it, it is absolutely ridiculous," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The mayor weighed in Thursday. Both he and the City Council speaker oppose the initiative. But that may not matter. Assuming enough signatures are valid, it'll come down to the city clerk to decide whether the ballot language is valid.
The language is carefully crafted, amending the city charter to mandate an investigation into any high-rise collapse, paid for with a new roughly 1 percent fee on new construction permits.
"This is a broad mandate," Walter said. "It's not just about investigating World Trade Center 7's collapse. It's also about investigating any future high-rise collapses."
As for an exhaustive 2008 report by investigators at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, running 800 pages, Walter and others insisted it's flawed. He said the mayor is uninformed.
"It seems to me this is a very insensitive and inappropriate action," de Blasio said.
"We think that it shows that he doesn't have all the information yet about who we are and what this is about," Walter said.
If successful, this would be the first time ordinary New Yorkers have gotten an initiative onto the ballot since the 1993 term limits vote. As for 7 World Trade Center, its replacement opened back in 2006 and is among three towers that have now been completed at the World Trade Center site.