As a big booster of prefabricated components, I negotiated their use for the World Trade Center towers with the various trade unions that had jurisdiction over such areas as electrical, plumbing, and phone-line installations. The fabricating of parts in a factory, rather than on site, allowed for greater quality control as well as for economies and greater speed. Prefabbed components could be stored off-site and delivered only when they were required and in a condition ready to be installed.
Because the mechanicals went in first, at the bottom of the buildings, the lower floors of the towers did become habitable well before completion of the far upper floors. The PA moved its offices into the North Tower in 1970, and for a while they were the only occupants of that building.
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The dedication ceremony for the World Trade Center towers was in April of 1973. For us, it had been five years of hard and sustained work, and I was happy to be there. But I was in shock because Austin Tobin had been forced out as director in 1972 after thirty years, and chose not to attend the ceremony. All of us who had dealt with him and had known intimately of his integrity and of his dedication to the creation of the World Trade Center were upset at the timing of this coup. I am certain that it contributed to his untimely death in 1978.
Early on, before we started the actual construction of the World Trade Center, a labor-union leader had shown up to picket outside our 666 Fifth Avenue headquarters. He and a group of construction workers stayed out there, day after day, handing out leaflets about the supposedly antilabor stances of our company. The allegations were not just against the company but against me personally, which angered and upset me because both I and the company took pride in being very pro-union, and in always using union labor on all of our construction works in New York and in all the other cities in which construction trade unions existed. From asking around, I learned that the target of this protesting was not really me or our firm, but rather was the World Trade Center project and especially the Port Authority, which had recently awarded some non-union contracts on parts of the work that they were doing themselves. The protester, and especially his picketing of our headquarters, drove Uncle Norman crazy.
Years later, I met the protester, and he told me that he had targeted our company, and particularly me, because he knew that I was prolabor and that the protesting would get under my skin, and he had hoped that I might be able to persuade the Port Authority to award contracts on all of their projects solely to union contractors.
Some time after we had been awarded the World Trade Center project, Norman Tishman became very ill. He left the company entirely and was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,