Mackley son-in-law files major lawsuit over WTC safety codes |

Mackley son-in-law files major lawsuit over WTC safety codes

One of the two attorneys representing those fighting to elevate building standards at the new World Trade Center in New York City has close family ties to Rifle.

New York City attorney Anthony LoPresti represents the Skyscraper Safety Campaign and others in a lawsuit that takes on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in a quest to force that entity to abide by local building and fire codes.

LoPresti is married to Rifle native Dianne (Mackley) LoPresti, daughter of former Garfield County Commissioner Arnold Mackley and his wife, Darlene.

The LoPrestis plan to move to this area in the fall, and he hopes to set up a law office in Glenwood Springs.

LoPresti said the lawsuit against the port authority has shades of oil and gas battles on the Western Slope.

“It’s similar to oil and gas because you’re dealing with a big agency that monitors itself,” he said.

That’s exactly what the lawsuit in New York aims to change.

Two members of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, or SSC, are relatives of people killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Sally Regenhard, chairwoman of the SSC, lost her son, a firefighter, in the WTC collapse. Monica Gabrielle, the campaign’s co-chairwoman, lost her husband.

LoPresti and his partner in the litigation, New York City attorney Tom Shanahan, filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in New York City. Others named in the suit include the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., Trade Center Properties, LLC, trade center retail leaseholder Westfield Group and trade center leaseholder Silverstein Properties.

The lawsuit centers around the redevelopment of the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings. The battle with the Port Authority started shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The land on which the World Trade Center stood is located within the boundaries of the port authority.

“It’s not about money. It’s not about pointing fingers. This is purely about safety,” LoPresti said.

The port authority is a bi-state organization, created by the legislatures of New York and New Jersey in 1921 and signed by members of Congress and by President Warren G. Harding.

Because it’s a federally-created district and it lies within different jurisdictions, the port authority has never had to follow local laws and regulations – including New York City building and fire codes.

That’s why LoPresti’s clients in the suit – which include the Skyscaper Safety Campaign, Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., the NYFD Uniformed Fire Officers Association and others – are fighting to try and compel the port authority to abide by universal building and fire codes when the new World Trade Center is built.

“Our argument is that when you’re acting as a commercial landlord, it’s beyond what you were formed to do,” LoPresti said of the port authority. “Also, whatever happens in that area has impacts to the whole region so (the port authority) should be susceptible to local building and fire codes.”

In a June 26 letter to LoPresti and Shanahan, the port authority’s attorney Jeffrey S. Green wrote that the authority is “saddened and disappointed to receive the ultimatum reflected in your letters . regarding the above matter.”

The letter also said that the authority “also has made clear our ongoing commitment to make sure that all new construction at the World Trade Center site will meet or exceed New York City’s building and fire codes.”

“But there’s no accountability,” LoPresti said. “Not only do they self-monitor themselves, even if there’s a violation, there’s no repercussions.

“If you’re going to build, again, the biggest target in the world, why can’t you make the public feel at ease that you’re going to be responsible?

“It’s like the Wizard of Oz. They want to be behind that curtain and they don’t want the New York City, the New York Fire Department, the building department or the public to know what they’re doing. They want free rein to do whatever it takes to pack in tenants. They’ve enjoyed immunity from local laws since its creation and they want to keep it that way,” he explained.

LoPresti said the next step in the legal process is to await the port authority and others’ answer to the suit, which should come within a month.

“You can bet they’ll file a motion to dismiss,” he said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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