Court Rules Against the High-Rise Safety Initiative

October 7, 2014

Dear Friends,

After two long weeks of waiting, New York Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten finally issued a decision in our case late yesterday afternoon, affirming the court-appointed referee’s report in its entirety, and ruling that the High-Rise Safety Initiative will not appear on the November 4, 2014ballot.

We are tremendously disappointed that Justice Wooten did not reverse the referee’s recommendations, in particular, the referee’s poorly reasoned conclusion that the petition amounts to a “merely advisory” referendum.

Wooten did call the City’s attempt to have the case dismissed on a procedural technicality “irrational and misplaced, particularly, when the result would be the voter disenfranchisement of more than 30,000 registered voters, without due process.” But we also expected him to weigh in on the legal issues, which he did not, instead simply deferring to the referee.

We Have Decided Not to Appeal

Based on the advice of our legal team, we believe our chances of winning on appeal are slim. Our priority at this point is to preserve our ability to attempt another ballot initiative in the future – if, after evaluating the lessons learned from this effort, we determine that a revised petition has a good chance of overcoming the seemingly insurmountable legal hurdles. For reasons discussed below, appealing would only endanger our chances of success in the future, while offering virtually no chance of success now.

Therefore, after long and careful consideration, we have decided not to appeal, which therefore brings an end to the High-Rise Safety Initiative campaign.

We are so deeply grateful to the thousands of people who contributed financially, and to the thousands more who promoted and cheered on our efforts. Together we came very close to giving New York City voters the opportunity to vote for a new WTC 7 investigation, and to mandate that any future high-rise collapses be properly investigated. In so doing, we elevated our message in the eyes of many who previously did not take it seriously, or knew nothing about WTC 7, and we forced the issue into the public dialogue in a big way, even if that dialogue continues to be dominated by politicans and reporters still too clueless or afraid to question what they’ve been told about WTC 7.

Today we bring the High-Rise Safety Initiative to a close knowing that it represents yet another major step forward in the journey toward truth and accountability.

New York’s Ballot Initiative Process Is Not Voter Friendly

As many of you know by now, the ballot initiative process in New York State is limited and extraordinarily difficult to navigate successfully. The only form of citizen-initiated referenda allowed at the local level are those that amend a city’s charter. As such, a law that would be more appropriate for a city’s administrative code cannot be proposed through a ballot initiative.

Furthermore, proposed charter amendments must be substantially related to an existing provision of the city charter; they must also include their own revenue source if they cost money to implement; and they must not be “merely advisory.” Beyond that they must be consistent with all other state and federal laws. Over the years, the courts have made it increasingly difficult to meet each of these requirements.

Most importantly, the process requires voters to go through the work of collecting tens of thousands of signatures prior to submitting the petition language and having it certified as legally valid. In almost every other state with an initiative process, the government certifies the language before the petition can be circulated. In some places, such as California, the government even assists in drafting the language. In New York State, it’s the opposite. The law discourages rather than encourages citizen-initiated referenda.

The result is that only two ballot initiatives out of the dozen or so that have been attempted in the past 50 years have successfully made it onto the ballot in New York City, and no initiative that has cost money to implement (and therefore required a financing plan) has ever made it onto the ballot. Because of the long odds of success, ballot initiatives are not attempted very often in New York City, and usually only by groups believing that they have no other avenue for accomplishing their goals.

With full awareness of this context, we determined that we had a better chance of achieving our goals with a local ballot initiative than through any other means. And so, using the lessons learned from the 2009 ballot initiative, and working with the most accomplished election attorneys in New York City, we set out to draft a petition that would give us the best possible chance of overcoming the customary legal hurdles.

Where We Fell Short; Where We Believe the Court Fell Short

As it turned out, our financing plan was not bulletproof. While drafting the petition, we and our attorneys did not anticipate the problems that would eventually become clear – namely, that the .9% surcharge on construction permit fees could be construed as a “tax” that the City is not authorized to impose, rather than a “fee” (which the City can impose without state approval), and that having a fund to set aside moneys to be used in future years could be found to violate the balanced budget requirement of the Financial Emergency Act, which prohibits the City from rolling over unused funds from year to year.

To be sure, we made credible arguments on both issues, and on the petition’s severability. However, the court did not find in our favor. Our decision not to appeal is based in part on the fact that we are very unlikely to win on the financing plan at the appellate level.

We do, however, believe that Referee Crespo and Justice Wooten seriously erred in finding the petition to be “merely advisory.” Through convoluted and erroneous reasoning, Referee Crespo somehow concluded that enactment of the High-Rise Safety Initiative would, in essence, have no material effect on the City of New York.

To arrive at this conclusion, he ignored the fact that the petition’s obvious effect was to require the Department of Buildings to investigate the collapse of WTC 7 and any future high-rise collapses. Under current law, the Department is not required to conduct these investigations, but has thediscretion to do so. Referee Crespo also concluded, based on an erroneous reading of the petition’s subpoena power and without factual basis, that an investigation of WTC 7’s collapse “cannot be effectuated.” Sadly, Justice Wooten simply went along with the absence of logic and erroneous findings proffered by the referee.

In short, we believe the “merely advisory” issue is winnable on appeal. But, given the short timeframe for that appeal to take place (at most a few days) and the likelihood of losing on the issue of the financing plan, it is almost inevitable that the appellate division would simply affirm the lower court’s decision. This would have the consequence of cementing the court’s finding on the “merely advisory” issue, thus making it impossible to attempt another ballot initiative with a revised financing plan in the future. While we do not know at this time if we will pursue another ballot initiative, we do not want to make another attempt impossible by appealing now when we have virtually no chance of winning.

A Monumental Achievement

While we at NYC CAN are of course very saddened by the court’s decision, we view the campaign as a monumental achievement that has served to bring ever-greater legitimacy and attention to our cause. The mainstream press took significant notice of our campaign, and we grabbed the attention of the New York City Mayor and City Council leadership. Further, tens if not hundreds of thousands more citizens are now aware of the collapse of WTC 7. We believe that what we have achieved will be a steppingstone to greater accomplishments in the future – whether directly leading the way to a third, successful ballot initiative, or channeling the support that has been mobilized toward a new type of effort.

We would like to thank everyone who supported the High-Rise Safety Initiative along the way. Our achievements were made possible only because thousands of people came together to support us. Without you, there would have been nothing. Thank you very much for being a part of our effort.


Ted Walter

Executive Director, NYC CAN

Regardless, We are not going away

Regardless, whether on this approach or other approaches, we are not going away.

Years from now, some of these "opposition" guys and their children will be embarrassed by their acts of cowardice and by being on the wrong side of history.

And, as Ted pointed out:
This campaign (and others) got the word out to many, many, many people.
I just chalk it up as an "advertising cost" on the ledger book.

I need help with my eighth grade civics, really.

Well, so much for "petition, referendum and recall." I do have a real question though. I learned in civics class that there are checks and balances instigated by the "wisdom of the founding fathers." In regards to the military, they are double checked by the Executive and the Legislative Branch. Sure, there is the Judiciary but I am talking about action here. It is has been seen in history that a military, through its sheer strength can overthrow a government just by virtue of its power: the president can fire immediately such mutineers and Congress can cut off funding. Besides a junta, military personnel could be motivated, not by power but by mere careerism. We have that covered, supposedly. The reason we have the head of the military in mufti, a civilian, is that he is supposed to be answerable to the electorate; his power is supposedly checked by the People. But it isn't, the Founding Father's seemed to have left a weak-link in the Checks and Balances arena. Whether or not one believes in stolen elections they have to cop to "bought" elections funded by special interests. If the CIA says no nukes in Iran, there is nothing stopping a president from cooking the intelligence books; there is just no check on a president acting for pure political reasons. One of the reasons, I think, that Clinton was impeached for a sexual peccadillo was to cheapen the process. Now, even thinking about impeachment is distasteful. There is no check by a rump Congress on the Presidents powers either; he "consults" with the Congress after the wheels are set in motion, after the war dogs have been slipped. The latter is a South American dictator's trick; to consult with a sub committee of Congress , in camera, and not the whole body to fake consent and it has been done in the U.S. as well.


Let's add compromised to the list. While campaign funding is a well known method, spying and blackmail are probably just as, if not more, effective. This affects all branches of government, not to mention the entire population. Well, now that we know about it on a superficial level, just enough for it to be effective, but not enough for pitchforks. Which is why Omit Your News Corp has us whining about "metadata" and "call logs", and won't mention the fact that all audio content from all phone calls in the USA are being recorded. They tell us foreign leaders are tapped, but not our own.

Dept of Buildings

I had hopes this would work out despite entrenched opposition, none of who care one iota about democracy.

As I understand it, the Department is not required to conduct these investigations, but has the discretion to do so. Could lobbying them directly with 100,000 signatures convince them to investigate Building 7? At least some aspect of the evidence. Would it threaten public safety for the Dept. of Buildings to see NIST models for why the building fell in an unprecedented way?? Gotta do something with with petitions. At least make the D.O.B. throw them away. I assume NYCCAN has copies if originals aren't returned.

Why not?

It probably won't do any good seeing as how this city is a cesspool of corruption, but why not pressure the Dept. of Buildings directly now? Tell them that a ballot initiative was judged to be 'merely advisory,' but nevertheless here's 100,000 signatures from NYC residents demanding that their dept. investigate WTC 7. If funds are an issue, then at least obtain the NIST input data from which they based their official conclusions about how the building fell.

The BuildingWhat? campaign once thought that 1,000 letters to the Manhattan D.A. would be effective... and these were from people all across the US. Here's 100 x more and they're NYC residents, mostly registered voters. It wouldn't take an organized campaign -- just walk the stack over. Or wheel them in on several trolleys. If you agree, then contact Ted. What could it hurt? Email:

Bid to Solve 9/11 Mystery Via NYC Ballot Ends After Court Ruling

The High-Rise Safety Initiative, which raised $350,000 and collected about 100,000 signatures to support its effort, decided not to appeal the decision by Judge Paul Wooten. Why? To keep open an avenue to try again at the next election in 2016, according to Ted Walter, the group’s executive director.

“We are going to take a little break, and try to evaluate whether we can redraft the petition to be successful in the future,” he told WhoWhatWhy.

In a few months, the High-Rise Safety Initiative will discuss whether to try again, considering three factors before proceeding, Walter said.

Those are: 1) Whether it can propose a plan to finance the investigation that can’t be challenged 2) Whether it can surmount the City’s legal argument that the proposed referendum is “merely advisory” and 3) If it can raise the minimum $300,000, especially now that donors know the long odds against success.


They just can't resist the 'conspiracy theorists' label.... but it's more coverage: