Official: NY attorney general issues subpoenas in World Trade Center naming rights probe

The state of New York has subpoenaed materials related to the $10 sale of the rights to the "World Trade Center" name in the 1980s, an official familiar with the review said Friday.

The subpoenas from the New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman involve an investigation into a 1986 deal in which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sold the naming rights to one of its outgoing executives for use by a nonprofit.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity Friday because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the probe.

The Record newspaper reported this month that the Port Authority sold the naming rights to Guy Tozzoli in his role as head of the nonprofit World Trade Centers Association. The Port Authority, which owned the World Trade Center towers and the land they sat on in lower Manhattan, is now among hundreds of entities around the world that pay to use the "World Trade Center" name.

The WTCA didn't return a message seeking comment Friday.

At the agency's monthly board meeting on September 18, Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye called the naming rights deal "a shameful episode" and vowed an internal investigation in tandem with the probe announced that day by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Neither Foye nor Port Authority board chairman David Samson was able to say who had approved the deal. The newspaper reported that the contract, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, bore the signature of a secretary. Foye said then-Port Authority executive director Stephen Berger told him he had not approved the deal.

The Port Authority pays $10,000 a year to use the words "World Trade Center," including on merchandise it plans to sell in the new World Trade Center currently under construction. Those sales could bring the Port Authority an estimated $23 million to $28 million annually, the newspaper reported. In exchange for the Port Authority's use of the trademark, the WTCA is requesting free office space at the new World Trade Center site worth an estimated $585,000 per year, according to documents obtained by the newspaper.


Gormley reported from Albany, N.Y.