Monday, September 16, 2013

NY Daily News article about the WTC name being turned into a marketing tool

Just give it back 

The sordid story of how the World Trade Center name was turned into a marketing tool

David Handschuh/New York Daily News

The World Trade Center name is not a brand.

A secret deal has just come to light there. Jaw-dropping in audacity, the arrangement is playing out with the grotesque exploitation of 9/11 as a real estate money-maker.
Half a century ago, a man named Guy Tozzoli took charge of building what were then the globe’s tallest skyscrapers on a forsaken area of downtown. Working for the Port Authority, he drove the project to completion in the hope that the complex would serve as a hub of international commerce and investment.
That dream never came true. While the towers became New York and American icons, they were taxpayer-supported money pits until shortly before the 9/11 attacks. Along the way, Tozzoli left the Port Authority to found a not-for-profit organization, called the World Trade Centers Association and dedicated to the mission of fostering business in branded World Trade Centers around the planet.
But Tozzoli needed the brand. So, 27 years ago, this modern-day Peter Minuit persuaded his Port Authority pals to sell his group the trademarks to the World Trade Center name for $10.
Stunning it was to discover in a Bergen Record story that presently unidentified Port Authority executives — no one will own up to the sin — off-loaded “World Trade Center” for the cost of a burger, fries and shake. After pouring billions of dollars into the original development, plus billions more into the rebuilding, much of it through higher bridge and tunnel tolls, the public doesn’t even own the naming rights.
Still worse, the World Trade Centers Association is demanding payment from the Port Authority before granting permission to sell branded souvenirs when the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center opens. In lieu of cash, they’ll take a half-million dollars worth of super-duper office space for free.
No, they won’t. Instead, here’s what must happen: The World Trade Centers Association must surrender its hold on the trademarks, return public propery to the public and, yes, start paying the public for the right to call itself the World Trade Centers Association.
Tozzoli died in February. WTCA general counsel Scott Richie said that CEO Eric Dahl was “traveling on business in China,” thus apparently escaping the reach of global communications.
Whatever virtuous intentions Tozzoli started out with, the association’s website now suggests that it is little more than a marketing tool for commercial real estate developments interested on boosting value with the World Trade Center name.
A project pays a $200,000 initiation fee plus $10,000 annually in order to be, for example, the World Trade Center of Tallinn, Estonia, or the World Trade Center of Dakar, Senegal. They are located in 330 cities in 100 countries, including — according to the Record — Hackensack, N.J., where a real estate broker runs a “World Trade Center” out of a storefront.
The association touts the rent-boosting magic of the World Trade Center brand and, in a promotional video, explains in this way why its fees are worth the price: “Certainly, 9/11 has ironically raised the profile of the name.”
Those fees, totaling $6.9 million a year, were good to Tozzoli. From 2009 to 2011 he pulled down $1.7 million in salary, including $626,000 in 2011 for working one hour a week. Old Pete Munuit would have blushed.

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