NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to play peacemaker after the Durst Organization decided to block a charity stair climb at One World Trade Center in honor of those who died during the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports that the head of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which sponsors the stair climb, believes One World Trade’s landlord is trying to camouflage the 9/11 connection in order to lease more space.
“They want to get so far away from what happened on 9/11, that last year they didn’t even want us to have pictures of firefighters or police officers that died. I mean, come one, this building is so symbolic,” Frank Siller told CBS2.
The stair climb to honor 9/11 first responders and their families was a huge success last year as nearly 1,000 people climbed 90 stories at One World Trade Center to raise money to build hi-tech homes for soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s a celebration of everybody’s life and we want this to be a celebration of the sacrifice that was made that day,” Siller said.
Siller told CBS2 what the Durst Organization is doing now is disrespectful to those that lost their lives that day and also to their families.
“Slap in the face, not only to those who lost their lives, but the family members and a lot of New Yorkers that lived through that particular day,” he said.
The stair climb honors FDNY Capt. Billy Burke, of Engine 21, who lost his life trying to help a wheelchair bound man and his friend in the North Tower. The tower collapsed before he could get them out.
Michael Burke, the captain’s brother, told CBS2 that it’s “outrageous” and “unfathomable” that there might not be a charity stair climb.
“The message? It’s telling us to forget about community, forget about thinking of each other, working for each other, coming together,”
The Durst Organization told CBS2 they didn’t want to greenlight the run due to security issues.
“Security requirement of One World Trade Center make stair climbs extraordinarily challenging,” Jordan Barowitz, vice president and director of external affairs for Durst, told CBS2.
However, late in the day, the company agreed to meet again with the run’s sponsors to reevaluate the situation due to pressure from Cuomo.
“I hope they change their minds,” Burke told CBS2.
Cuomo said he’s confident the remaining issues can be resolved.
John Hodge of Tunnels to Towers told WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini that he expects all parties to meet with the governor this week.
“If these first responders were being denied access, were called in there today because there was an emergency in that building, they would run up those stairs again,” Hodge told WCBS 880.
A Durst spokesperson told CBS2, “We have to work with all our tenants and partners to ensure this event is as successful as it can be.”
The Port Authority is offering to provide logistical, security and communications assistance.
CBS2 is a sponsor of another foundation event — the annual Tunnel to Towers run.