Government Workers Balk at New WTC Digs

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Fears of terrorism drove six employees of the General Services Administration to file a federal lawsuit seeking a court order preventing the agency’s move to the newly rebuilt World Trade Center.
     Tasked with the basic functioning of U.S. government buildings, the GSA currently maintains an office at 26 Federal Plaza, a little more than a mile away from its new offices on six levels of the Freedom Tower.
     Lawrence Tomscha, who became president of his local GSA union in 1988, says that his memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon make him still shudder today when he sees low-flying planes.
     He now leads a group of six doughty workers at the agency describing their new offices as a “target for terrorists” in a lawsuit asking a federal judge to break the agency’s lease. They sued the GSA and its administrator Denise Turner Roth in a 16-page complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
     Co-plaintiff Jonathan Williams, a vice-president of the agency’s local union, worries that the move will aggravate his high blood pressure and stress, according to the 16-page complaint.
     Priscilla Rosario, a program analyst for GSA, said that she “experiences severe trepidation as she contemplates the proposed move” because she lost a godfather in the 9/11 attacks.
     Peter Davis, a marketing specialist for the agency, griped the office space roughly halfway up the 104-story tower could trigger his vertigo and fear of heights.
     “The fact that the proposed offices are on the 55th floor further would make evacuation difficult if not impossible due to limitations in his ability to walk down such a significant number of stairs,” the complaint says.
     The GSA spent $351 million on a 20-year lease it signed in July 2012, the employees claim.
     This expense was “entirely unnecessary” because there already is vacant space in the GSA’s current office, the lawsuit says.
     The lawsuit alleges that the GSA failed to get Congressional authorization and sidestepped “numerous internal directives to prevent waste and abuse in government” in this expenditure.
     It is on this basis that the workers seek a judgment setting aside the lease as an “abuse of discretion.”
     Their attorney Jesse Rose, who is based Astoria, N.Y., noted in a phone interview that there have been “several Congress people who have complained” about the lease.
     House Republicans have led the charge, including Reps. John Mica in Florida and Jeff Denham in California, the Federal Times reported three years ago.
     Though the Pentagon lost 125 victims in the attacks, roughly 23,000 show up at the building every day and more than 100,000 visit there annually.
     Rose differentiated his clients from those workers.
     “GSA employees are administrative employees,” he said. “They aren’t military employees.”
     The GSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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