In what seems like a deliberate attempt at conspiratorial double-entendre, the New York Times reports this morning that an “Obscure Company Is Behind 9/11 Demolition Work.”
[Image: The South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11; photographer unknown].
This obscure company, we read, is the John Galt Corporation, and they were “hired last year for the dangerous and complex job of demolishing the former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street, where two firefighters died last Saturday.”
Wait a minute – what was all that about “9/11 Demolition Work”? Isn’t there an implication in that phrase that 9/11 was –
130 Liberty Street, you see, was heavily damaged by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11; it’s being dismantled because of this.
That apparently makes it “9/11 Demolition Work” – besides, the cryptic headline sells more papers.
[Image: An aerial view of Ground Zero, taken on September 23, 2001, by NOAA’s Cessna Citation Jet. Via Wikipedia].
What’s interesting, nonetheless, is that the John Galt Corporation “has apparently never done any work like [this],” the New York Times reports.
“Indeed, Galt does not seem to have done much of anything since it was incorporated in 1983.”
Public and private records give no indication of how many employees it has, what its volume of business is or who its clients are. There are almost no accounts of any projects it has undertaken on any scale, apart from 130 Liberty Street. Court records are largely silent. Some leading construction executives in the city say they have never even heard of it.
The CIA masquerading as a demolition services firm in New York City!
Well, the article doesn’t say that – but it does parse through some of the complicated financial superstructures within which the John Galt Corporation operates (including distant ties to the Gambino crime family).
The John Galt Corporation is thus a kind of administrative straw man, a legal way “to insulate the assets of a parent company from the enormous potential liabilities of demolition work.”
Indeed, demolition is a legally complex undertaking; one need only read the last few chapters of Jeff Byles’s Rubble to understand the subtle vicissitudes of the growing industry.
In any case, the Times article goes on to say that New York state and its corporate partners experienced a lot of “difficulty” in “attracting any contractors interested in, or capable of, performing the novel and high-profile job” of demolishing 130 Liberty Street.
It is not hard to understand why most contractors – particularly during a building boom, when they can pick and choose work – would balk at doing a job involving hazardous materials under microscopic regulatory scrutiny for a governmental client whipsawed by demands that demolition go faster (so that ground zero redevelopment could proceed) and slower (to ensure that contaminants were not released into the neighborhood).
But I want to go back to the original motivation for this post: the world of legally shady demolition firms operating in the maze of high-rises and vacant lots, warehouses and Jersey docklands, of New York City. After all, there are so many potential novel plots in this set-up, I can hardly believe it.
There’s the Nicolas Cage/National Treasure 3 version: the John Galt Corporation is actually a front for some rogue group of foreign archaeologists – because there is something inside the building… and they need to recover it.
There’s the Loose Change version: 130 Liberty Street contains far too much chemical evidence that thermite really was used on 9/11 – and so the John Galt Corporation was brought in by Langley to clean up the job…
There’s the Ghostbusters/Grant Morrison version: the building is not a building at all… it is a valve, built directly above the Pillar of Manhattan, and it is only there as a way to vent subterranean steam. The John Galt Corporation is really a team of Columbia-trained paranormal investigators…
Anyway, obscure NYC demolition firms seem like a remarkably underused resource for contemporary novels and films; in fact, it’ll be interesting to see if demolition firms, post-9/11, take on a kind of conspiratorial aura, with unclear connections to investors in suburban DC… somehow showing up before major terrorists attack… starring Denzel Washington…
Read more about John Galt at The New York Times.
(Interesting note: John Galt is the name of a character in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged).