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Twelve years after a bomb in the World Trade Center garage killed six people and injured more than 1,000, opening arguments in a negligence suit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took place Monday. The plaintiffs — survivors and the families of the dead — claim the Port Authority kept the underground parking area open and unprotected despite numerous warnings of the dangers presented. “This was a terrorist’s dream come true,” said David J. Dean of Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, who opened for the plaintiffs. The World Trade Center garage, he said, “had an open-door policy that would shock you.” The defense, represented Monday by Marc E. Kasowitz of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, denied the suggestion that the twin towers lacked sufficient security. The World Trade Center was the only building in New York to have its own dedicated police force, he said. Port Authority officers patrolled the building and parking lot attendants were “trained to be constantly on the lookout for suspicious activity.” He also emphasized that before the February 1993 bombing, foreign terrorists had never attacked within the United States. He tried to take the jury back to the mindset that pre-dated the 1996 bombings during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta and 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, before heavily armed soldiers roamed the streets and passengers were required to take their shoes off before boarding airplanes. Scheduled for 9:30 a.m., opening arguments began just before 10, a reminder to some of the plaintiffs in the audience of the length of time it has taken the case to finally get to trial. “We’re waiting 12 years and a half hour,” cracked one audience member just before the jury entered the room. Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Figueroa is hearing the case after Justice Stanley Sklar removed himself in April. Sklar feared that the one day he spends each week on calendar items would delay what is already expected to be a lengthy trial. “A day a week would really add weeks to the trial,” said Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver. “[Figueroa] didn’t have the same constraints.” The trial has been consolidated for the liability issue. Plaintiffs will pursue damages separately if the jury finds the Port Authority negligent. Monday, Dean went first. The attorney who represented millions of Viet Nam veterans in In re Agent Orange wore a bright-red power tie and repeatedly approached the jury box. He revolved his presentation around a single, three-part theme: The Port Authority had been repeatedly warned of the likelihood of an attack and experts recommended closing the underground garage, but the Port Authority kept the garage open for purely financial reasons. “This could not have taken place without the negligence, carelessness, arrogance and indeed stupidity of top Port Authority personnel,” he said. “Money. That was the motivating factor behind the Port Authority’s decision.” Even if the Port Authority failed to close the garage, it could have taken compromise steps that would have prevented the attack, such as manning the entrances, Dean said. The terrorists were “mean” and “scary-looking,” he said. “If you saw this guy on a plane, you’d say to a stewardess, ‘Hey, check this guy out.’” In his closing line, Dean looked at the jury and said, “I say, shame on the Port Authority.” He then turned to face the defense and repeated his line, his voice brimming with anger: “Shame on the Port Authority.” Like Dean, Kasowitz also invoked images of the terrorists, describing them as men “who believed that it was their religious duty to wage a holy war against this country.” But it was these terrorists, not the Port Authority, who were responsible for the attack, he added. The Port Authority built the World Trade Center and was among its biggest tenants, according to Kasowitz. “It was the terrorists who did this, and we shouldn’t blame the victims,” he said. Kasowitz was more reserved than his adversary, rarely straying from behind his lectern, but seemed no less self-assured, sipping from a water bottle and a can of Diet Coke during his presentation. In addition to emphasizing the difference in the nation’s attitude toward terrorism and the sufficiency of the Port Authority’s security measures, Kasowitz repeatedly told the jury about the Port Authority’s connection to the building. Three thousand Port Authority employees worked in offices spread across 20 floors. The Port Authority held numerous “family parties” at the World Trade Center. “Do you think they’d sacrifice a few dollars,” Kasowitz asked the jury, “and risk the safety of their families and their kids?”

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