Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate whether the World Trade Center naming rights were properly transferred to the World Trade Center Association, which has reaped tens of millions of dollars in profits since acquiring the name in 1986.
Guy Tozzoli, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive, secured the exclusive rights to use the World Trade Center name for $10 without getting approval from the Port Authority’s board or executive director, according to Cuomo. He left the authority within months to become president of the World Trade Center Association. Tozzoli led the organization until his death earlier this year.
The governor’s actions follow recent published reports about Tozzoli and the creation of the nonprofit association. The group registered additional marks with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the World Trade Center name for the sole benefit of its group, rather than the Port Authority, Cuomo said in a statement. The governor said Tozzoli “received exorbitant annual compensation from the WTCA above and beyond his Port Authority pension for approximately 25 years.”
The governor has requested that if the probe finds any wrongdoing, that Schneiderman “seek to recover the benefits of the World Trade Center brand by all available means.” That includes the Tweed Law, which provides that the attorney general shall commence a proceeding to recoup public money or property that was obtained without right by a public official.
“The World Trade Center has become a public symbol of our city, state and nation, and it is troubling that an organization has made millions of dollars off the sale of what in essence belongs to the public,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The fact that the rights to the World Trade Center name were obtained from the taxpayers for no meaningful compensation and without the Port Authority’s consideration and approval – yet have yielded such great profits in the years since – raises many questions.”
Schneiderman said his office plans to “thoroughly review the facts in this troubling history to determine whether rights to the ‘World Trade Center’ name were improperly acquired and whether individuals unlawfully benefited as a result. We will take any action within our power to right past wrongs.”
(Journal News file photo of One World Trade Center.)