NEW YORK (AP) — A 16-year-old bypassed “inattentive” security in the middle of the night and climbed a ladder to the spire of 1 World Trade Center, the nation’s tallest building, where he apparently took pictures, authorities said Thursday.
The boy from Weehawken, N.J., was arrested at 6 a.m. Sunday and charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass.
According to a criminal complaint, the teen was quoted as telling police: “I walked around the construction site and figured out how to access the Freedom Tower rooftop. I found a way up through the scaffolding, climbed onto the 6th floor, and took the elevator up to the 88th floor. I then took the staircase up to 104th (floor). I went to the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna.”
He was arrested on the premises, and his camera and cellphone were seized after authorities obtained a search warrant, said Joe Pentagelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site.
The teen got onto the construction site of the nearly completed tower through a 1-foot opening in a fence and eluded an “inattentive” security guard on the 104th floor, Pentagelo said. The guard, who worked for a contractor, not the Port Authority, has been fired, the spokesman said.
According to court papers, the teen was released without bail after being arraigned shortly after midnight Monday on one count of third-degree criminal trespass and one count of trespass. His lawyer didn’t immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.
The criminal trespass charge is a misdemeanor punished by up to three months in jail. The simple trespass is a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail.
The complaint said the teen was observed inside the tower beyond numerous posted signs that stated: “Do not enter. No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.”
“The defendant knowingly entered and remained unlawfully in a building and upon real property which was fenced and otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders,” the court papers said.
Authorities were still trying to determine the teen’s motive. WABC-TV reported that he took pictures from the top of the building, where he stayed for about two hours.
The investigation was continuing.
“We take security and these types of infractions very seriously and will prosecute violators,” Joe Dunne, chief security officer for the Port Authority, said in a statement. “We continue to reassess our security posture at the site and are constantly working to make this site as secure as possible.”
The tower is scheduled to open later this year.
Plans ultimately call for heavy security around the rebuilt trade center, including a network of barriers, security checkpoints and areas for screening vehicles before they can enter the 16-acre site, with through traffic barred. Some nearby residents have challenged the plans as overbearing, saying in a lawsuit last fall they would turn their neighborhood into a fortress-like environment “as impervious to traffic as the Berlin Wall.”
City lawyers defended the security plans as necessary for what they called one of the most sensitive sites in the country, and the city said the measures were as unobtrusive as possible. A judge dismissed the case last month.
The residents’ lawyer, Daniel Alterman, said Thursday they had decided not to appeal the dismissal and work instead to impress their concerns on local and state officials. “We have faith that with the new mayor and (police commissioner) our voices will be heard and considered,” he said in an email.