By Jay Levin The Record
Guy Tozzoli, the Port Authority director who oversaw the design and construction of the World Trade Center — and who watched the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001, while he was mired in traffic at the Holland Tunnel plaza in Jersey City — died Sunday in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Mr. Tozzoli, a former longtime Westwood resident, was 90.
A North Bergen native and an engineer, Mr. Tozzoli joined the Port Authority in 1946 and managed construction projects at the agency’s Newark Airport and marine terminals. As director of world trade, he was put in charge of the World Trade Center project in 1962. Two years later, he spoke in lofty terms of the twin 110-story skyscrapers that would rise in lower Manhattan.
“It will be a city with a working population of 50,000 and a landmark that will attract 80,000 visitors daily,” he said in an interview with The Record. “The center’s 10 million square feet of space will make it larger than Rockefeller Center. And it’s going to mean a worldwide selling job on our part to get tenants to occupy it.”
Mr. Tozzoli led the planners, architects and builders charged with creating what were briefly the world’s tallest buildings — the vision of Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller.
Mr. Tozzoli’s influence was monumental. A colleague, Alan Reiss, the Port Authority’s deputy director for construction of the Twin Towers’ successor, One World Trade Center, said it was Mr. Tozzoli who persuaded New York Mayor John Lindsay to allow dirt excavated for the towers to be deposited along the southwest shore of Manhattan. The fill formed the foundation for a new development, Battery Park City.
“That was one of Guy’s ideas,” Reiss said. “Brilliant.”
Another of Mr. Tozzoli’s ideas was a fine-dining establishment on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower. So was born Windows on the World.
At the dedication of the buildings in April 1973, Mr. Tozzoli was awarded the Port Authority’s highest honor, the distinguished service medal.
He maintained his office at the World Trade Center and continued to do so after he retired from the Port Authority in 1986 and shifted to the full-time presidency of the World Trade Centers Association, an organization he founded in 1970.
Mr. Tozzoli was driving his Mercedes-Benz to work when terrorists crashed jetliners into the towers.
“I lived with those buildings for 40 years,” he told The Record. “When the second plane hit, I knew what it was. It made me immensely sad and then terribly angry. I was empty after that.”
Mr. Tozzoli’s wife, Cindi, said Monday that her husband managed to enter Manhattan after being caught in the standstill at the Holland Tunnel.
“He got a policeman to let him go through the tunnel — I think the policeman let him go through because he was Guy Tozzoli,” Cindi Tozzoli said.
“But after he got through, they wouldn’t let him go any farther, and he made his way uptown and then back home,” she said. “When he arrived, he was absolutely in shock. It was devastating, totally devastating for him, but it was more for the people in the buildings than for the buildings themselves.”
Reiss said his former colleague showed keen interest in One World Trade Center, scheduled to be completed at the end of 2013. Asked what he learned from the man who built the Twin Towers, Reiss said: “That you have to be tough and harsh sometimes. You have to rein in the changes … and just get going and build it. And sometimes, you just have to tell the people, ‘Pencils down.'”
Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye and Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni described Mr. Tozzoli as “one of the agency’s groundbreaking pioneers.”
“His dedication to the WTC site was instrumental in fostering world trade and economic development as a critical part of the Port Authority’s mission to create jobs and stimulate economic activity for the region,” they said in a statement.
Mr. Tozzoli moved to Myrtle Beach two years ago and retired from the World Trade Centers Association last February. In addition to his wife of 16 years, he is survived by the six children from his first marriage, Susan Tozzoli, Thomas Tozzoli, Kathleen Bernaldo, William Tozzoli, Michael Tozzoli and Richard Tozzoli.
Arrangements, under the direction of Becker Funeral Home in Westwood, are pending.