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An Obscene Rip-Off at Ground Zero
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This is absolutely disgusting. Via the NYDaily News and hat tip to Steve Janke:

A budding filmmaker that FEMA found in the yellow pages used his taxpayer-funded video of the smoldering World Trade Center ruins in a documentary featuring topless women chatting about their breasts, a Daily News investigation has found.

Provided with unique access in an NYPD helicopter, Gregg Brown was flown by cops over the restricted air space of Ground Zero daily for eight months beginning on Sept. 15, 2001, capturing countless hours of grim video while snapping 30,000 photographs.

Red-faced officials at the city Department of Design & Construction, which oversaw the cleanup of Ground Zero, concede that the stunning, gut-wrenching material was supposed to belong to the people who paid for it — the citizens of New York and the nation. But Brown, who was ultimately paid up to $302,000 in federal 9/11 disaster recovery funds, refused to sign a prepared agreement ceding “title and ownership” to the city.

With the legal paperwork unsigned in late 2001, Brown was inexplicably allowed to keep shooting — and keep collecting big paychecks…

Brown went on to register “Ground Zero aerial video” with the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington. The Daily News, which discovered the payments to Brown as part of its ongoing investigation into what happened to the $21.4 billion the federal government gave New York to recover and rebuild from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, reports:

[Brown] then included part of the footage in a wacky documentary, “Words,” surrounding scenes of Trade Center death and destruction with interviews of topless women talking about society’s obsession with breasts and a group of New Yorkers traipsing around nude as part of a simulated Native American ceremony.

In a Website promo for his film, Brown, 34, links the disparate images: “‘Words’ explores the connections between such seemingly unrelated events as a Native American sweat lodge ceremony, a gathering of topless women and the devastation of the World Trade Center through a combination of documentary filmmaking and reality-based entertainment.”

The documentary website was down this morning due to exceeded bandwidth limits. But I found another of Brown’s sites here, which features the aerial photographs. As the Daily News notes, “As a result of Brown’s actions, New Yorkers are being denied unfettered access to what is undoubtedly the most exhaustive collection of Ground Zero photos — unless they are willing to buy them.”

The Department of Design & Construction’s incompetence is scandalous:

For its part, the DDC says it cannot find its copies of the videos, for which Brown billed the city tens of thousands of dollars. The agency also cannot find its copy of a “special video presentation” requested by then-DDC Commissioner Kenneth Holden for use Nov. 21, 2001, at Columbia University’s School of Engineering, at an additional cost of $2,306.

DDC says it also cannot find the extra prints of “digital photos taken by site workers,” which Brown was paid an additional $2,867 to duplicate.

Monahan said the DDC does have copies of the 30,000 photos, but acknowledged it does not have the negatives. In response to questions from The News, Monahan said DDC also cannot find the “900 custom reprints of previous WTC aerial shots” for which Brown charged an additional $4,384.

The Daily News notes that “two other filmmakers hired to record events at Ground Zero both signed contracts that specifically required them to turn over all materials to the government agency that hired them.”

Blogger Steve Janke asks the right questions:

Did the DDC lose the material? Or did Brown never deliver? If he was paid for work not done, he could be sued. A million dollars in damages, or turn over the pictures.

Just one problem: Gregg Brown, who was a New York City public-access host, seems to be missing. The Daily News writes that it “has been trying to locate Brown for more than a month, leaving messages on his home, business and cell phones and with his business partner and lawyers; vigorous attempts to locate him were unsuccessful.”

Action item number one: Find Brown. Here’s what he looks like:


Action item number two: NYC needs to fire the DDC officials responsible for this rip-off.

Action item number three: Congress needs to find out what thoughtless bureaucrat at FEMA randomly picked a photographer out of the Yellow Pages to be entrusted with such a historic, somber task; fire the person responsible; and find some way to take back the 9/11 images from this photographic vulture.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology