We got to see a vivid reminder this week that New York City never stays the same with an extraordinary color film that surfaced thanks to the Romano Archives. The crowning moment of the film is the at-the-time-brand-new Rockefeller Center rising up from Midtown Manhattan. As depicted in the film, the outdoor plaza is still pretty much the way it is today, but then up to the roof - the Top of the Rock is where things are different. The view has noticeably changed and so has the air quality. And because it's still a spectacular place to view the city, we found it's a good place to see how things have changed since 1939 to 2013.
The film is a tour of New York City during the summer of 1939, just months before World War II broke out and changed everything, the summer Lou Gehrig gave his farewell address and the year The Wizard of Oz premiered.
In this film, shot by a French tourist, we get a glimpse of what things cost back then. We go uptown to Harlem and then back downtown to Chinatown. It's a visual feast for history buffs, from those dreadnought city cabs, to buses with spiral staircases. There are men and women in the film wearing their hats at rakish angles, we see elevated tracks since shut down, windows open on subway car (pre-air-conditioning), and when public fountains were an acceptable way to cool down.
Watch the full film from the Romano Archives after the jump.
Watch an extraordinary color film showing a tour of New York City in the summer of 1939, courtesy of the Romano Archives. No audio.
Heavy traffic was reported in southwestern Connecticut on Monday morning after thousands of New York City-bound workers from the suburbs took to the roads because a train crash last week wrecked a section of commuter-rail track.
But fears that roads in the area could turn into one giant “parking lot” -- with the addition of some 30,000 commuters who normally take the Metro-North commuter rail line -- did not appear to have been realized.
The train crash -- just outside Bridgeport on Friday -- injured 72 people. Nine people remained hospitalized on Sunday, with one critical, according to the AP. A 2,000-foot stretch of track was damaged and repair crews are expected to have to work around-the-clock for several days.
Officials toured the scene of a two-train collision in Connecticut that injured dozens of people and halted rail traffic from New York to Boston on Friday. NBC's Michelle Franzen reports.
Connecticut Metro- North Rail Commuter Council, which was set up by the Connecticut state legislature, said in a message on Twitter that traffic was “not bad.” “Buses from stations shuttling half full but slow. Carmagedon avoided?” it tweeted.
And Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia told the Connecticut Post that traffic was calm around the city Monday morning. On Sunday night, a reverse 911 call was made to city residents asking for them to carpool.
"It is better than I thought it would be. People are heeding my advice and the governor's message to either work from home or carpool to work,” Moccia said.
Sandra Dria, of Waterbury, told the paper that her journey down Route 8 was just like "a normal day.”
However heavy congestion was reported along Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway, NBCConnecticut.com said Monday morning.
Jennifer Pascucci and Lisa Zarny, of Orange, who work in food service at Stamford Hospital, told the Post they tried to drive to work, but found the Merritt Parkway was choked at Exit 49, so they parked the car and planned to catch a bus-train. "We can't exactly work at home,'' Zarny said.
Gary Maddin, of Milford, Conn., told The Associated Press that it took him an hour to make what is normally a 20-minute drive from his home to the Bridgeport train station. From there, he planned to board a shuttle bus to Stamford where he could catch a train to Grand Central Station in New York.
"It's a lot," he said. "It's a nightmare just to get into the city today."
A spokeswoman for Connecticut State Police, citing Lt. J. Paul Vance, said just after 9 a.m. Monday that traffic on the relevant stretch of I-95 was “light,” as people appeared to have made other arrangements or avoided the area.
On Sunday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned that he expected the commute to be "extremely challenging."
At a news conference in Hartford Sunday, Malloy said that "residents should plan for a week's worth of disruptions."
Connecticut Governor Malloy holds a press conference after two Metro North trains collided injuring 60, 5 critically.
He said that if all 30,000 affected commuters took to the highways to get to work, "we would literally have a parking lot," according to the Associated Press. And if a substantial number of affected consumers hit the roads, traffic would be "greatly slowed."
"If you are going to New York and you get to New York or you're transporting yourself to New York you may decide that perhaps you should stay there for the duration of this disturbance," Malloy added.
About 700 people were on board the trains Friday evening when one heading east from New York City's Grand Central Terminal to New Haven derailed just outside Bridgeport. It was hit by a train heading west from New Haven. Both trains were traveling at about 70 mph.
A derailed Metro-North rail car is hoisted back on to the tracks in Bridgeport. Conn. on Sunday, May 19, 2013. President Howard Permut said Sunday.
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Commuters are bracing for a difficult trip around southwest Connecticut and to New York City beginning Monday as workers repair the Metro-North commuter rail line crippled by a derailment and crash.
Crews will spend days rebuilding 2,000 feet of track, overhead wires and signals following the collision between two trains Friday evening that injured 72 people, Metro-North President Howard Permut said Sunday. Nine remained hospitalized.
"This amounts to the wholesale reconstruction of a two-track electrified railroad," he said.
Several days of around-the-clock work will be required, including inspections and testing of the newly rebuilt system, Permut said. The damaged rail cars were removed from the tracks on Sunday, the first step toward making the repairs.
Service disruptions on the New Haven line between South Norwalk and New Haven are expected to continue "well into the coming week," Permut said.
Amtrak service between New York and New Haven also was suspended, and there was no estimate on service restoration. Limited service was available between New Haven and Boston.
Jim Cameron, chairman of a commuter group, the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said he's asked officials in numerous towns to suspend parking rules to accommodate what could be tens of thousands of motorists driving to unaffected train stations. Twelve stations are on the route that's been shut down.
The state Department of Transportation was expected to provide details Sunday on bus service between stations on Monday. Cameron said he doubts many commuters will use three modes of transportation to get to work: driving their cars to catch a bus to get to a train station for the final leg.
Commuters will more likely rely on their cars, leading to massive traffic problems on highways that are already clogged on normal days, Cameron said. He suggested that local and regional officials post highway signs directing motorists to available parking so motorists "don't get off the highway and drive in circles looking for where to dump their cars."
About 700 people were on board the trains Friday evening when one heading east from New York City's Grand Central Terminal to New Haven derailed just outside Bridgeport. It was hit by a train heading west from New Haven.
Dan Solomon, a trauma surgeon who lives in Westport and was headed to work at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, was on the train that derailed. He said he treated several injured passengers, including a woman with severely broken ankles.
He said he was in a front car that was not as badly affected as cars in the rear of the train.
"I hardly lost my iced tea," Solomon said in an interview.
He said walls were torn off both trains and he quickly checked injured passengers to separate the most badly injured from others.
"When the EMS arrived, I was covered in everyone's blood," he said.
Investigators are looking at a broken section of rail to see if it is connected to the derailment and collision.
NTSB investigators arrived Saturday and are expected to be on site for seven to 10 days. They will look at the brakes and performance of the trains, the condition of the tracks, crew performance and train signal information, among other things.
The MTA operates the Metro-North Railroad, the second-largest commuter railroad in the nation. The Metro-North main lines — the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven — run northward from New York City's Grand Central Terminal into suburban New York and Connecticut.
The last significant train collision involving Metro-North occurred in 1988 when a train engineer was killed in Mount Vernon, N.Y., when one train empty of passengers rear-ended another, railroad officials said.
The aircraft part has been identified as a piece from a 767 wing, officials said Monday. NBC 4 New York, which first reported the finding in an alley near ground zero last week, has also learned the answer to the mystery of a rope that was found intertwined in the part — according to a law enforcement official, a detective who responded to the original call about the part last week tried to move it with a rope.
Authorities on Friday had said the rope might have indicated the part was lowered into the alley, but have since interviewed everyone who had contact with the part last week and have now answered that question. The official tells NBC 4 New York that the detective found the rope nearby and was trying to move the part to find a serial number or other identifying mark.
The NYPD also said Monday that a Boeing technician has confirmed that the 5-foot part is a trailing edge flap actuation support structure.
"It is believed to be from one of the two aircraft destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, but it could not be determined which one," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.
On Sept. 11, American Airlines flight 11 hit the north tower at 8:46 a.m., and United flight 175 hit the south tower at 9:03 a.m. A FEMA graphic below shows that all the other plane parts in the immediate area were from flight 175.
Police and officials from the city medical examiner's office were on scene Monday preparing to sift the soil under the part for lost human remains. Officials said the part will be removed later in the week when that process is complete.
The part was found wedged between two buildings in a very narrow alley only about 18 inches wide between the rear of 50 Murray St. and back of 51 Park Place, the site where a mosque and community center has been proposed three blocks from ground zero.
The part bears a "Boeing" stamp, followed by a series of numbers.
The NYPD said the landing gear was found after surveyors hired by the property owner inspecting the rear of 51 Park Place called police on Wednesday.
Most of the rubble from the 9/11 attack was cleared from the 16-acre site by the spring of 2002. Other debris, including human remains, has been found scattered outside the site, including on a rooftop and in a manhole, in years since.
Corrosion and oxidation are being repaired in the signal relay room the South Ferry subway station in lower Manhattan, devastated by flooding in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The station is being repaired with damage done to all components of the infrastructure, especially the electrical system.
By Carlo Dellaverson, Digital Producer, NBC News
When the gleaming South Ferry subway terminal in Lower Manhattan opened in 2009, it came with a vast concourse filled with public art installations of wrought iron and smoked glass, polished white walls—and a hefty $500 million price tag.
The cost of rehabilitating it from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy? At least $600 million—though a full assessment of the damage hasn’t even been done yet.
“It’s a complete gut job,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. “Every component of the station needs to be replaced.”
As communities rebuild and residents return to their homes, dozens of workers at the South Ferry station are taking the very first steps toward getting the station back online, starting with scrubbing mold from virtually every surface. Before the storm, 30,000 people passed through South Ferry each day, shuttling between Staten Island and Manhattan and around the labyrinthine streets of New York’s financial district.
Craig Ruttle / AP file (top), Cr
Joseph Leader (top) of the MTA shines a flashlight on standing water inside the South Ferry 1 train station in lower Manhattan on Oct. 31, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Six months later, Leader (bottom) descends the stairs toward the track in the same station.
Now, the stillness of the station is unsettling. The 90-foot platform sits empty, with strings of construction bulbs lighting two tracks and tunnel walls still covered with debris and dirt from the storm. Drywall and tiles have been ripped up by construction workers to expose the film of mold that quickly built up in the dark, humid space after the storm hit six months ago. The air is thick and pungent.
But the greatest damage inflicted from Sandy is not visible. The salty ocean water that flooded the station eighty feet below street level corroded nearly every piece of equipment in the space, adding considerably to the cost of recovery.
Over 700 relay components – devices critical to the signaling systems of trains – were destroyed. A separate room of signaling equipment at the end of the platform flooded to the ceiling and is now a “complete loss,” said Joseph Leader, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chief maintenance officer, who is overseeing the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the station.
Leader was actually the first person to see the damage from Sandy’s storm surge. On the morning after the storm passed late last October, Leader entered the station and saw “just a trickle” of water coming down the stairs, he said.
“I thought our barriers held and that we were doing good,” he said, referring to the makeshift barricades –sandbags and plywood -- the MTA constructed at the street-level entrances of certain exposed stations.
But as Leader ventured further, he realized the surge had breached the main station entrance. “Water was coming up the steps at me from the platform level, lapping at my feet,” he said. The entire subway "tube" was filled to the brim; 14 million gallons of seawater had to be pumped out before officials could even get a look at the destruction.
South Ferry was designed to be the last stop on a busy line that follows Broadway as it snakes through Manhattan as well as a connector to another main subway artery and the Staten Island Ferry. The original station, which opened in 1905, was much maligned for a layout quirk that only allowed five of ten subway cars to open at the platform; inattentive straphangers who neglected to move to one of the cars with open doors were forced to take the “loop” back uptown one stop to exit.
While the new South Ferry station addressed many of the engineering problems that existed at the old station, the possibility that a 14-foot storm surge could take it offline in the span of a few hours was not accounted for.
Craig Ruttle / Craig Ruttle for NBC News
The subway map, with mold spreading up from the bottom, can be seen on the platform after being under water at the damaged South Ferry subway station in lower Manhattan. The station is being repaired with damage done to all components of the infrastructure, especially the electrical system.
The MTA says it is now “considering all options” that would mitigate the effects of a similar or even lesser surge as it rebuilds South Ferry, along with other vulnerable parts of its city-wide network (Sandy also wiped out an entire above-ground section of a subway line in the Rockaway section of Queens that is yet to be reopened).
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo laid some of these ideas out in his State of the State speech earlier this year, calling for subway stations to adopt “closing vents…roll down doors… inflatable bladders,” and repeating his refrain that “there is a 100 year flood every two years now” as reason to invest in infrastructure improvements.
One of the options under consideration involves letting subway tunnels and stations flood in a storm – but only after workers have removed valuable pieces of equipment and taken them to higher ground. This use of “modular infrastructure" allows critical gear to be packed up like suitcases and brought to higher ground so it can be “plugged right back in” after the pumps have removed the water from tunnels and stations, Leader said.
“Can you stop every ounce of water that comes into the system? Theoretically yes,” Leader said. “But is it feasible? Probably not.”
Footing the bill, at least in part, will be the feds. The MTA has received $1.2 billion to date in federal funding as part of the $51 billion Sandy relief bill signed by President Obama in January. It is asking for billions more (the total hit to New York’s transit system from Sandy is estimated to be $5 billion). The MTA plans a bifurcated approach to how that money is spent: partially for repairs to damaged infrastructure in places like South Ferry, and partially toward making long-term improvements that would harden and protect the system in future storms.
“As we work to bring our system back to normal, we must also make the necessary investments to protect this 108-year old system from future storms. We must rebuild smarter. The South Ferry subway station is a perfect example,” said MTA Chief Executive Thomas Prendergast.
Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who specializes in urban economics and infrastructure, cautions that federal money is “apt to disappear quickly in cost overruns” and that the MTA should carefully examine precisely how it can apply the aid to projects that will keep the system from suffering catastrophic damage in the next storm, and not on “complex and untested mitigation efforts” that may not work.
Craig Ruttle for NBC News
Joseph Leader of MTA holds an example of cable damaged by sea water in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, typical of damage found at South Ferry subway station.
“Otherwise, this ‘free money’ from the feds doesn’t end up being free at all, and taxpayers end up on the hook,” Gelinas said.
The MTA recently reopened the old South Ferry station, which was entombed next to the new terminal after its grand opening four years ago – the first time the authority has ever brought a decommissioned station back into use, Leader said. Engineers knocked down a wall between the two stations to allow passengers to get to the old platform area through the new entrance. It’s a way to reestablish subway service to the area, however imperfect. “We’re building a new station within a new station,” Joe Leader said. “It’s going to take a while.”
Until that monumental task is completed, commuters in Lower Manhattan will need to reacquaint themselves with a once-familiar phrase thought to be relegated to history:
“You must be in the first five cars to exit at South Ferry.”
MTA Video Release: Hurricane Sandy - South Ferry and Whitehall St Station Damage.
Defense lawyers announced Monday that all six defendants, including embattled state Sen. Malcolm Smith, are expected to plead not guilty at Tuesday’s arraignment.
Smith is accused of conspiring with New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran, a Republican, to bribe county Republican leaders for a place on the GOP mayoral ticket. The indictment alleges that two top Republican operatives, Joseph Savino and Vincent Tabone, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for supporting Smith's political bid, NBCNewYork.com reported.
Smith never formally launched a campaign to replace outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. According to NBCNewYork.com, Smith, a Democrat, would have required authorization from three of the city’s five GOP county chairmen to run as a Republican candidate.
Halloran stands accused of agreeing to siphon off City Council funds to a private company in exchange for additional bribes.
“That’s politics, it’s all about how much,” Halloran is quoted as saying in the indictment, according to The Associated Press. “Not about whether or will, it’s about how much, and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that.”
Reuters / Mike Segar
New York State Senator Malcolm Smith makes his way through a crush of media to a waiting car after appearing in United States Court in White Plains, New York on April 2.
Smith, Halloran, Savino and Tabone were arrested by the FBI on April 2, following an extensive federal probe.
The corruption investigation also concerns Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret, who are accused of accepting funds and property to sign off on a prospective real estate project. That charge is unrelated to Smith’s and Halloran’s alleged bribery plot.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who announced the complaint against the officials three weeks ago, announced Monday that he has met with the FBI to “discuss expanding our corruption efforts."
“It seems that a culture of corruption has developed and grown, just like barnacles on a boat bottom,” Bharara said. “And just as with barnacles on a boat bottom, when a growth is permitted to spread and grow unchecked, it unsurprisingly takes an unrelenting, collective effort to clean up.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found that 48 percent of New Yorkers view corruption as a “very serious” issue – the highest share since the poll began posing the question in 2003, according to The Associated Press.
Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum must now pay a $2 service fee to reserve passes online or by phone.
The fee went into effect last month, although there is no charge for admission to the memorial on the World Trade Center site. There's also no charge for same-day passes distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Family members of some 9/11 victims say the fee violates the memorial's mission.
"They're making money off the people that died. It's disgusting," Jim Riches, a retired FDNY deputy chief who lost his firefighter son, told the New York Post.
Memorial President Joe Daniels issued a statement Sunday saying that, "like other similar institutions, in order to help support the operational needs of the 9/11 Memorial we have implemented a service fee, solely for advance reservations."
The memorial's website says the reservation system is temporary until certain construction projects are finished. Tax-funded grants have paid for about $300 million worth of construction, and more than $400 million came from private donations.
The memorial opened in 2011, attracting about 7 million visitors so far to its two reflecting pools with waterfalls that outline the footprints of the fallen towers.
Caitlin Leavey, who lost her father in the September 11th attacks, speaks out on how she found a way to cope and help other victims of terrorism. WNBC's Erika Tarantal reports.
The foundation that runs the memorial estimates that once the project is complete, the memorial and museum will together cost $60 million a year to operate.
The museum is still under construction after an interruption involving a funding fight between the foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre trade center site. Officials have said that the failure to open the museum on time has thrown off the foundation's financial planning.
Visitors to the exhibit space will see portraits of the nearly 3,000 9/11 victims, hear oral histories and view artifacts such as a staircase World Trade Center workers used to escape.
Department of Defense policy about spending during sequestration states that no branch of the armed forces may participate in community relations or outreach events that incur additional cost to the government or that rely on anything other than local assets and personnel.
"DoD policy is clear," the official said, adding that, "we will follow that direction, to include participation in Fleet Weeks."
The official stressed that the Navy will strive to see how it can participate in events with local assets and lower costs. "We're still looking to see what parts of the larger celebrations we can salvage."
Also as part of the cuts, this week the Navy officially canceled remaining performances in 2013 by the Blue Angels precision flying team. The Defense Department has said the budget cuts would force the military to slash ship and aircraft maintenance, curtail training, and give up to 14 days' unpaid leave to most of its 800,000 civilian employees.
Fleet Week is run by the city of New York, not the Navy. It is scheduled to begin May 22. Last year, 21 ships from the U.S. and its allies participated, but it's unclear how many would appear this time.
The official said that city officials are disappointed, but understand the constraints.
"We are working with them to see what we can provide," the official said, adding, "but it will not be the five, six, seven big decks (aircraft carriers) and ships that we've had in the past."
A New York City cardiologist with offices on Fifth Avenue and in New Jersey admits he intentionally misdiagnosed up to 80 percent of his patients with heart problems so he could collect millions in extra Medicare money.
Dr. Jose Katz, 68, pleaded guilty to falsifying charts diagnosing patients with angina and other heart ailments so he could prescribe extra tests and treatments when hundreds of patients did not need them.
Prosecutors said it was the largest fraud ever executed by a single doctor in New York or New Jersey.
"After years of prominence in his field, Jose Katz will now be remembered for his record-setting fraud," said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
In court Wednesday he agreed his actions could have caused "serious bodily harm" to his patients. He and his lawyer disagreed when prosecutors said some patients were at risk of death due to his actions.
In all, Katz admitted his scheme took in over $19 million.
Katz's crimes went on from at least 2004 through 2012. His resume said he is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, but a spokeswoman said he has not been linked there since 2003.
Fishman said many patients who were exploited went to Katz's clinics, called Cardio-Med Services in Union City, Paterson and West New York. He also ran clinics called Comprehensive Healthcare in Manhattan and Queens.
Katz said he performed many so-called EECP procedures based on false diagnoses to overbill Medicare and private insurers like Blue Cross and Aetna.
In court, Katz told the judge as a doctor he had "done everything he could to help patients." The judge told him he would have time to speak at sentencing set for July 23. After the court hearing, Katz and his attorney, Blair Zwillman, left the courthouse admitting mistakes were made but insisting Katz always cared for his patients.
Katz faces up to 10 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit health care fraud charges. He also admitted creating a no-show job in his office in order to rip off more than $250,000 in Social Security benefits.
Katz was born in Cuba but is a U.S. citizen. Prosecutors said he spent $6 million advertising on Spanish-language television and radio to try to lure in patients.
Fishman said investigators are attempting to contact all the patients affected by the fraud, who can also reach out to the New Jersey FBI or U.S. attorney's offices for additional information.
By Jonathan Dienst, Joe Valiquette, Shimon Prokupecz, NBCNewYork.com
A prominent Democratic state senator and a Republican city councilman from Queens were arrested Tuesday in an alleged plot to get the senator onto the New York City mayoral ballot by paying off GOP county chairmen, authorities said.
NBC 4 New York's calls and emails to offices and attorneys of those arrested were not immediately returned.
The Democratic field in this year's mayoral race is crowded with several candidates, and getting on the GOP ballot would be a way to sidestep that battle in heavily Democratic New York City. Any candidate seeking to be added to a primary ballot needs to be approved by three of the five county chairmen for a particular party.
Two Republican county chairmen -- Joseph Savino, of the Bronx, and Vincent Tabone, of Queens -- were among those arrested Tuesday.
Court papers say Smith arranged for a wealthy real estate developer, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, to fund the bribes, and Halloran negotiated the payments to be $40,000, plus promises for $40,000 more.
In one discussion, according to court papers, Smith is accused of saying "Look, talk to me before you close it. But it's worth it. Because you know how big a deal it is."
Prosecutors say as part of the bribery scheme, Smith also agreed to use his influence to help get state funds for a road construction project that would benefit the fake real estate developer.
FBI New York Director George Venizelos said in a statement that "public service is not supposed to be a shortcut to self-enrichment. .... As alleged, these defendants did not obey the law; they broke the law and the public trust."
Smith was elected to the State Senate in 2000 in a special election. He was elected minority leader in 2007, succeeding David Paterson. He served as leader of the Senate Democrats until 2009 when he was forced out amid an Albany coup.
Last year Smith joined with several Republicans to form a "bipartisan governing coalition."
Halloran took office in 2010 and represents the 19th district in Queens, succeeding Tony Avella.
Halloran is also accused, in the same court papers, of accepting several cash payments totaling more than $35,000, plus $6,500 in campaign contributions, in return for steering a $20,000 grant from the City Council to an FBI witness.
"That's politics, that's politics, it's all about how much," Halloran is accused of saying in a meeting with the witness. "Not about whether or will, it's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that, all like that."
At a later meeting with the witness, Halloran is accused of telling the witness to get him a tax identification number, name and address of an organization and an application for funding "so that there's no questions, it raises no flags, and everybody's got it the way it's gotta be."
Halloran garnered widespread attention after the Christmas 2010 blizzard when he said five municipal employees told him that workers had engaged in a deliberate slowdown in clearing snow.
Federal officials announced other arrests Tuesday in relation to the road project part of the scheme; those expected to be charged are Democrat Noramie Jasmin, mayor of Spring Valley in Rockland County, and her deputy mayor, Joseph Desmaret.
This story was originally published on Tue Apr 2, 2013 8:07 AM EDT
Witnesses told police they heard a woman scream in the vicinity; others said they saw the man and woman being forced into the minivan at gunpoint, authorities said.
But Paul Browne, chief NYPD spokesman, told NBC 4 New York the incident may not be nearly as sinister as the surveillance video suggested. Brown said Monday that what looked like an abduction "may have been a hoax staged among friends to celebrate one of their birthdays."
Police also confirmed the parties involved are known to each other.
The city has collected about 60 dump truck loads of debris from construction areas around the World Trade Center site over the past two and a half years that will be sifted for fragments of 9/11 victims' remains, officials announced Friday.
The debris has been collected from the World Financial Center, West Street and a lot near Liberty Street since the last sifting operation in mid-2010.
The material amounts to 590 cubic yards -- 38 from the WTC, 13 from the western edge of the southbound lanes of West Street and 539 from the Liberty Street area, where four pieces of possible human remains have already been found.
The material will be combed for about 10 weeks starting Monday at a mobile sifting unit set up on Staten Island, city officials said.
Any human remains will be analyzed by the medical examiner's office for possible matches to 9/11 victims. Of the 2,750 people killed at the trade center, 1,634 have had remains identified.
"We will continue DNA testing until all recovered remains that can be matched with a victim are identified," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway wrote Friday in a memo to Mayor Bloomberg.
The city expanded its search for remains of trade center victims in 2006, when several bones were found in a manhole.
Since the discovery of the manhole bones, the city has sifted debris from various construction sites and subterranean areas surrounding the 16-acre trade center site. More than 1,800 pieces of potential human remains have been found.
The office has made 34 new identifications since 2006, and hundreds of fragments of remains have been matched to people who were already identified.