1968 ad claimed World Trade Center would pose ‘risk to air navigation’

Sept. 11 tragedy bore an almost precise resemblance to image in ad

A 1968 ad in the New York Times by the Committee for a Reasonable Trade Center suggested that the World Trade Center would, once finished, be an interference for air traffic.
A 1968 ad in the New York Times by the Committee for a Reasonable Trade Center suggested that the World Trade Center would, once finished, be an interference for air traffic. (Ad posted is courtesy of Peter L. Malkin and Malkin Holdings LLC.)

As the 20-year anniversary of the tragic Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States approaches, many will find themselves thinking about that day a little more deeply and frequently.

There’s the story we know of the Towers’ collapse -- from the devastating day nearly 20 years ago -- but there are others that came before that; for instance: concern in the early 1960s about the height of the buildings.

On May 2, 1968, the Committee for a Reasonable World Trade Center -- created, in part, by then-real estate mogul Lawrence Wien -- ran an ad in the New York Times (seen above), warning that the World Trade Center could have catastrophic ramifications.

In a New York Times article that details the journey of building the World Trade Center, the magazine detailed how Wien rounded up nearly every major real estate power in Midtown to create the committee, which took out full-page attack ads in newspapers across the city.

Wien warned that the World Trade Center could wreak havoc in the real estate market on a scale “not seen since the Depression,” and that it was not only unrealistic, but that it was dangerous.

He went as far to say that it would not only endanger thousands should there be a fire or explosion, but also suggested that “an airplane might someday hit the World Trade Center, with disastrous consequences.”

The ad that ran on May 2, 1968, and can now be seen at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, began by stating:

“We are strange and mysterious people.”

“We build cars to cruise at 100 mph, then try to make somebody keep them under 50.”

“We build airports that can handle gigantic jets but can’t handle our luggage.”

“We undertake great projects with enthusiasm and never consider the consequences until we’re choking on them.”

... “The Port of New York Authority is trying to build a trade center which, according to (a) pilot, ‘adds an additional risk to air navigation.’”

Posted in the ad was a quote from the president of the Allied Pilots Association, who, according to the Committee, was speaking for 3,500 commercial pilots at that time: The president is “deeply concerned over the safety problems arising out of traffic congestion in this area. Safe navigation includes not only planned flight patterns, but also provisions for unforeseen and uncontrolled diversions.”

The committee that ran the ad posed that, in order to limit hazard, the Trade Centers would need to be no taller than 900 feet.

The ad went on to state: “This means, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, that air traffic patterns will have to change, landing approaches will have to be altered, minimum altitudes in the area will be affected,” the ad stated. “The total potential hazard is staggering … Unfortunately, we rarely recognize how serious these problems are until it’s too late to do anything.”

The ad didn’t seem to ruffle enough feathers. Yet, the tragedy that happened on the morning of Sept. 11 bore an almost precise resemblance to the image in the ad, down to “the direction the plane flew and the location of impact,” The New York Times article stated.

The towers were erected and opened anyway, as we all know -- and well above the proposed 900 feet.

According to Britannica, One World Trade Center reached 1,368 feet (1,730 with a large antenna), and Two World Trade Center was 1,362 feet tall. Each reached 110 stories in height.


About the Author:

Dawn is a Digital Content Editor who has been with Graham Media Group since April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.