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Citizens Union

Rebuilding NYC

The Chosen Memorial Design: Reflecting Absence



Reflecting Absence includes two pools submerged about 30 feet below street level in the middle of a large open plaza at street level.


Street level view of Reflecting Absence.


A view of the ramp descending toward a reflective pool of water.

Reflecting Absence, a design that most prominently features two sunken pools where the Twin Towers stood, has been chosen for the memorial at the site of the World Trade Center. The memorial jury made its choice Monday, after a marathon session at Gracie Mansion, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced the news the next day. The design, which has been on display since the eight finalists were chosen in November, will not necessarily be the one built, since major modifications are expected.

As currently designed, visitors would walk through a plaza empty except for a scattering of pine trees at ground level and then descend along a ramp towards the two sunken pools. In another room visitors would light candles in memory of the victims of 9/11. Connected to this room is a chamber where unidentified remains would be buried, accessible only to family members of the victims.

Of the eight designs, Reflecting Absence made the largest alteration to the original site plan for Ground Zero designed by Daniel Libeskind, by radically changing the cultural center into a wall-like structure against its western edge. This design hopes to reduce noise from West Street and create a quieter memorial space, but some have criticized it for cutting off a major entrance to Battery Park City.

In a study carried out by Imagine New York, Reflecting Absence ranked fifth of eight in terms of public approval. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said that the design did not appeal to them. Dual Memory was the most popular, but even that design was disliked by 51 percent of respondents.

Summing up the public response, Imagine New York wrote that the aspect of the plan that participants in their study liked the most was the way that the design “respects and highlights the footprints,” and the way it connected the memorial to the past of the World Trade Cener site. “A number of people commented that they like the designs direct ‘use of the void,’ and that the design was simple clean and the ‘most memorial-like,’” the report continued. “They found ‘Reflecting Absence’ to be respectful, contemplative, peaceful and solemn.” Those surveyed also liked the idea of being able to participate in the design by having a place to leave candles and other artifacts.

Criticism of the design centered on its sparse covering of the site, which made it feel bleak and desolate. Blair Kamin, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, said that the design was one of several of the finalists that “might pack a powerful emotional punch, but deal[t] crudely – or unimaginatively – with the site.” He wrote that “the design has real promise because it communicates not rhetorically, but physically, giving the visitor a visceral sense of absence. Yet its handling of the site is nothing short of brutal.”

How Reflecting Absence will be adapted to answer its critics has yet to be seen. The president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation claimed that a final design may contain major modifications, after all eight finalist designs received a negative response from both the general public and architectural critics. Some wanted to see artifacts from September 11 integrated into the memorial, others hoped for a combination of elements from several plans.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation said that Michael Arad and Peter Walker, the designers of Reflecting Absence, have made “significant changes” to the original design. What this means will not be known, however, until the altered design is made public the week of January 12.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Designer's Statement

"This design proposes a space that resonates with the feelings of loss and absence that were generated by the death and destruction at the World Trade Center. A pair of reflective pools marks the location of the towers' footprints. The surface of these pools is broken by large voids. These voids can be read as containers of loss, being close-by yet inaccessible.

The pools are submerged thirty feet below street level in the middle of a large open plaza. They too are large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence. The pools are fed by a constant stream of water, cascading down the walls which enclose them. Bordering each pool is a pair of sloped buildings. These buildings create a sense of enclosure, capturing the exposed outer corners of the memorial site and defining a path of circulation around each pool. They also guide visitors to the site into the memorial itself.

Visitors begin their descent into the memorial by entering one of these buildings. This descent removes them from the sights and sounds of the city and immerses them in a cool darkness. As they gradually proceed, step by step, the sound of water falling grows louder, and more daylight filters in from below. At the bottom of their descent, they find themselves behind a thin curtain of water, staring out at an enormous pool that flows endlessly towards a central void that remains empty. A ribbon of names surrounds this pool and the enormity of this space and the multitude of names lining it underscore the vast scope of the tragedy that took place at this site. Standing there at the water's edge, looking at a pool of water that is flowing away into an abyss, a visitor to the site can sense that what is beyond this curtain of water and ribbon of names is inaccessible.

The names of the deceased appear to be in no discernible order. The apparent randomness reflects the haphazard brutality of the deaths and allows for flexibility in the placement of names of friends and relatives in ways that permit for meaningful adjacencies; for example, siblings who perished together at the site could have their names listed side by side. Family members seeking out the name of a loved one are guided by on-site staff or a printed directory to their specific location. The location of the name marks a spot that is their own.

In between the two pools is a short passageway that links them at this subterranean level. At its center is a small alcove where visitors can light a candle. Across from it, a long corridor leads to a chamber that houses unidentified remains. This space is only open to family members and serves as a private contemplative space.

The end of a visit to the memorial is marked by an ascent back to street level. Visitors are again ensconced by darkness, but now the long and narrow passageway leads up towards daylight. As they emerge from the ramped enclosure, they find themselves back in the open plaza.

The western edge of the plaza is bounded by a cultural building that shelters the site from the highway. The remaining three sides are open and link the plaza to adjacent streets and neighborhoods. Tall pines punctuate the plaza's surface, softening its character and creating shaded areas within this large outdoor room. Designed to be a mediating space, the plaza belongs both to the city and to the memorial. It encourages uses that are both contemplative and everyday. It is a living part of the city."

The Chosen Memorial Design: Reflecting Absence



Reflecting Absence includes two pools submerged about 30 feet below street level in the middle of a large open plaza at street level.


Street level view of Reflecting Absence.


A view of the ramp descending toward a reflective pool of water.

Reflecting Absence, a design that most prominently features two sunken pools where the Twin Towers stood, has been chosen for the memorial at the site of the World Trade Center. The memorial jury made its choice Monday, after a marathon session at Gracie Mansion, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced the news the next day. The design, which has been on display since the eight finalists were chosen in November, will not necessarily be the one built, since major modifications are expected.

As currently designed, visitors would walk through a plaza empty except for a scattering of pine trees at ground level and then descend along a ramp towards the two sunken pools. In another room visitors would light candles in memory of the victims of 9/11. Connected to this room is a chamber where unidentified remains would be buried, accessible only to family members of the victims.

Of the eight designs, Reflecting Absence made the largest alteration to the original site plan for Ground Zero designed by Daniel Libeskind, by radically changing the cultural center into a wall-like structure against its western edge. This design hopes to reduce noise from West Street and create a quieter memorial space, but some have criticized it for cutting off a major entrance to Battery Park City.

In a study carried out by Imagine New York, Reflecting Absence ranked fifth of eight in terms of public approval. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said that the design did not appeal to them. Dual Memory was the most popular, but even that design was disliked by 51 percent of respondents.

Summing up the public response, Imagine New York wrote that the aspect of the plan that participants in their study liked the most was the way that the design “respects and highlights the footprints,” and the way it connected the memorial to the past of the World Trade Cener site. “A number of people commented that they like the designs direct ‘use of the void,’ and that the design was simple clean and the ‘most memorial-like,’” the report continued. “They found ‘Reflecting Absence’ to be respectful, contemplative, peaceful and solemn.” Those surveyed also liked the idea of being able to participate in the design by having a place to leave candles and other artifacts.

Criticism of the design centered on its sparse covering of the site, which made it feel bleak and desolate. Blair Kamin, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, said that the design was one of several of the finalists that “might pack a powerful emotional punch, but deal[t] crudely – or unimaginatively – with the site.” He wrote that “the design has real promise because it communicates not rhetorically, but physically, giving the visitor a visceral sense of absence. Yet its handling of the site is nothing short of brutal.”

How Reflecting Absence will be adapted to answer its critics has yet to be seen. The president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation claimed that a final design may contain major modifications, after all eight finalist designs received a negative response from both the general public and architectural critics. Some wanted to see artifacts from September 11 integrated into the memorial, others hoped for a combination of elements from several plans.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation said that Michael Arad and Peter Walker, the designers of Reflecting Absence, have made “significant changes” to the original design. What this means will not be known, however, until the altered design is made public the week of January 12.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Designer's Statement

"This design proposes a space that resonates with the feelings of loss and absence that were generated by the death and destruction at the World Trade Center. A pair of reflective pools marks the location of the towers' footprints. The surface of these pools is broken by large voids. These voids can be read as containers of loss, being close-by yet inaccessible.

The pools are submerged thirty feet below street level in the middle of a large open plaza. They too are large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence. The pools are fed by a constant stream of water, cascading down the walls which enclose them. Bordering each pool is a pair of sloped buildings. These buildings create a sense of enclosure, capturing the exposed outer corners of the memorial site and defining a path of circulation around each pool. They also guide visitors to the site into the memorial itself.

Visitors begin their descent into the memorial by entering one of these buildings. This descent removes them from the sights and sounds of the city and immerses them in a cool darkness. As they gradually proceed, step by step, the sound of water falling grows louder, and more daylight filters in from below. At the bottom of their descent, they find themselves behind a thin curtain of water, staring out at an enormous pool that flows endlessly towards a central void that remains empty. A ribbon of names surrounds this pool and the enormity of this space and the multitude of names lining it underscore the vast scope of the tragedy that took place at this site. Standing there at the water's edge, looking at a pool of water that is flowing away into an abyss, a visitor to the site can sense that what is beyond this curtain of water and ribbon of names is inaccessible.

The names of the deceased appear to be in no discernible order. The apparent randomness reflects the haphazard brutality of the deaths and allows for flexibility in the placement of names of friends and relatives in ways that permit for meaningful adjacencies; for example, siblings who perished together at the site could have their names listed side by side. Family members seeking out the name of a loved one are guided by on-site staff or a printed directory to their specific location. The location of the name marks a spot that is their own.

In between the two pools is a short passageway that links them at this subterranean level. At its center is a small alcove where visitors can light a candle. Across from it, a long corridor leads to a chamber that houses unidentified remains. This space is only open to family members and serves as a private contemplative space.

The end of a visit to the memorial is marked by an ascent back to street level. Visitors are again ensconced by darkness, but now the long and narrow passageway leads up towards daylight. As they emerge from the ramped enclosure, they find themselves back in the open plaza.

The western edge of the plaza is bounded by a cultural building that shelters the site from the highway. The remaining three sides are open and link the plaza to adjacent streets and neighborhoods. Tall pines punctuate the plaza's surface, softening its character and creating shaded areas within this large outdoor room. Designed to be a mediating space, the plaza belongs both to the city and to the memorial. It encourages uses that are both contemplative and everyday. It is a living part of the city."

View the other memorial finalists

Passages of Light: Memorial Cloud



A street-level view of Passages of Light: Memorial Cloud.


A view from beneath the translucent canopy.

In this design, a translucent canopy at street level covers a below-ground memorial. Under the "cloud," an individual circle of light extending upwards encircles the name of each victim.

During the day, sunlight also enters from above. The names are grouped according to whom they were closest to at the time of their deaths. A line of the names of rescue workers extends through the two distinct groups, one for each tower.

Gisela Baurmann, Sawad Brooks, and Jonas Coersmeier are all designers and teachers living in the New York area.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Finalist Statement

"Through "Passages of Light : The Memorial Cloud," we wish to create upon a site scarred by a terrifying loss, sorrow, and grief, a work of shared and individual mourning, as well as a gesture affirming our hopes, common dreams, and ability to rebuild.

Our intention is first to recognize and honor the victims of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 within a special, shrouded, spiritual space, protected from the noise and pace of the city by a crystalline "cloud." The cloud's top surface is a translucent bandage healing a wound. Level with "Ground Zero" (street level) and permitting traversal, it reconnects the urban fabric of downtown. On the ground beneath the cloud each of the 2,982 victims is represented by a radiating circle of light embedded into the floor, which illuminates the engraved name of the individual victim but also projects a subtle ray of light upward into the cloud. During the day, the cloud, like an undulating veil, a sinuous surface forming cathedral-like vaults, channels daylight downward onto the field of names.

Together, the names form a design that we term the "Pompeii Scheme," because it represents individuals equally in the course of their lives, cut short by the attacks. A name appears near those of the people with whom he or she died. For example, the approximately 1400 individuals who perished in Tower One define the largest field of lights. This field is continuous with the group of approximately 600 who died in the second tower. The design's appearance reflects the cloud's topology of cupolas. A "Line of Rescuers" runs through both groups, where Firefighters, Police, and ordained and medical people can be represented.

Our design is guided by our respect for the sacred ground. Accordingly, we limit the cloud to touching the ground for support on only five points; we judiciously open the earth beneath the World Trade Center Tower footprints only to provide visitors access to the symbolic "bedrock" level, creating thereby a processional passage of light and subterranean darkness. The procession that carries visitors beside the repository for the "unidentified remains" connects both footprints with the channel along the exposed slurry wall.

Through the Memorial Cloud we hope to elicit two more responses, one highly physical, the other imaginative, both of awe. One recovers a sensation associated with the World Trade Center Towers when we recall standing in their presence: the urge to look skywards, a vertical gesture associated with hope. With the second gesture we seek to give expression to a relation between those we mourn and those who live on affected by the tragedy and repercussions of the attacks. This is a relation between the finite and the sublime. The cloud's design as a bundle of 10,000 vertical conduits for light which support each other structurally, distributing forces of tension and compression, figuratively represents our shared responsiveness to crisis and our cumulative strength."

Rebuilding in 2004


reflecting3
Reflecting Absence was selected on Tuesday as the final memorial design for the Ground Zero site.
• View the design

John Delaportas remembers the area around Liberty Street and Broadway near the World Trade Center as being one of rarely used office buildings, a place where nothing much happened even before September 11. But in the last few months he has seen a remarkable amount of activity.

"It used to be nothing. All of a sudden, there are little bars and clubs," he said. "I see very hip, young people going in and out of them. I think that's very positive thing for Lower Manhattan."

Things are picking up around Ground Zero, and it's not just the crowds. As the new year begins, the process of rebuilding seems to be ending one stage and entering another.

"Six months ago, we kind of knew that the memorial was the last chance for public input," said Mike Kuo, head of Imagine New York, established by the Municipal Art Society to give the public a say in the future of the World Trade Center site. The group announced on December 31, 2003 that it was closing its doors. "Once a memorial design is in place, and once a site plan is in place," Kuo said, "I don't know what more there is to do that will inspire people in massive numbers to come out and help to shape the process."

At the same time, things downtown have begun to show change - there are new ways for people from Battery Park City and New Jersey to get to Ground Zero, and new places for residents downtown to live and students to learn. There are also big plans for the year.

New York will be busy rebuilding in 2004. A design for the Freedom Tower was recently presented to the public, and construction is slated to begin in the fall. Final designs for the memorial are expected as early as this week. [Editor's Note: On Tuesday, January 6, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced the jury's selection of "Reflecting Absence"] The design for a new transportation hub will come out later this year. The quickened pace is largely due to an ambitious timeline laid out by George Pataki last spring, then updated in the fall, something that earned both high praise and harsh criticism; some accused the governor of political opportunitism.

Whether it is a good or a bad thing, changes are coming rapidly. Until now, the rebuilding process has been focused mainly on planning. But by the end of this year, much of this planning will be completed, and physical reconstruction will have begun. Below, we look at what is on the schedule for 2004.

JANUARY: Memorial Finalist

The memorial jury, which picked eight finalists last year, has narrowed it down to three, according to the New York Times, and expects to make a final design later this month. When they reconvene this week, the jurors will reportedly be considering only the Passages of Light: The Memorial Cloud , Garden of Lights , and Reflecting Absence . The jury will be evaluating designs that have been altered from those shown to the public in November, but because the process takes place behind closed doors it is not known how greatly the designs have been altered.

The memorial competition is the part of the rebuilding process that has been criticized more than any other for pushing ahead too quickly. Some have said that it is impossible to reflect on 9/11 so soon after the event, others have said that public dissatisfaction over the current designs proves the need to start again. But this unhappiness is not unanimous -- in a Pace University poll of visitors to the display of the designs at the Winter Garden, 62 percent of respondents said they were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the process.

Critics of the process are looking to other levels of government to step in. At the urging of the Coalition of 9/11 Families, which rejected all of the finalist designs because they built on top of the "footprints" of the original Twin Towers, a bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives that would sponsor a National Park Service study of the site to determine whether they warrant historic landmark status. Without a sponsor in the Senate - both New York Senators have declined to introduce it - the bill's supporters admit that they will have trouble getting the bill passed.

On the state level, a New York assemblyman announced last week that he will introduce a bill requiring the Port Authority to return ashes gathered after 9/11 to Ground Zero. Such ashes contain unidentified human remains, and some family members of victims want to have these remains buried on the site instead of at Fresh Kills landfill, where they are now. The announcement gave a push to an effort that has gained momentum in New Jersey, where a similar law was recently passed. Without a New York State bill, the New Jersey bill is only a symbolic gesture, because the Port Authority is jointly controlled by both states.

Critics of these efforts, including the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, have said that the passage of either the federal or the state bill would derail the entire rebuilding process.

For more about the memorial, go to Rebuilding NYC's memorial topic page.

SPRING: Transportation Hub Design

In spring, a preliminary design for Santiago Calatrava's transit station will be presented to the public. $1.7 billion in federal funds have already been allocated for downtown's "Grand Central Terminal," which is to be completed by 2006. Until then, the temporary PATH station that opened at Ground Zero in November will connect downtown to New Jersey.

Also to be presented in the spring is a plan to renovate the Fulton Street subway station, which is receiving $750 million from the federal government. This project will eventually connect to Calatrava's station, forming a major transportation hub in Lower Manhattan.

This month, a series of options for rail access from downtown to JFK and Newark Liberty airports will be announced, after a study paid for by the city and the Port Authority. If such connections are deemed viable, there is $1 billion available for a solution -- $500 million for each airport. Additionally, $250 million of federal transportation money is available if the project goes through.

Other plans will also take advantage of the $4.55 billion that the federal government has earmarked for New York's transportation needs. Over continued objections of some community members, $400 million will go to renovate the South Ferry subway station, and $900 million has been set aside to bury West Street, connecting Battery Park City to the rest of Lower Manhattan. Ferries connecting La Guardia and JFK airports to Manhattan are to be in place by the end of 2004 and 2005 respectively.

For more about transportation, go to Rebuilding NYC's transportation topic page.

SEPTEMBER: Cornerstone For the Freedom Tower

The cornerstone for the Freedom Tower is to be laid by September 11, 2004, the third anniversary of 9/11, and the building is slated to open in 2008 or 2009. While the design that was released in December has been well received, some still feel that there are issues to be worked out, such as how the spire from the original site plan has been integrated into the rest of the building and how the building will look at street level.

Another issue is the lack of a tenant, a rarity for an office building in this stage of development. Besides government officials, no one has expressed interest in moving into the Freedom Tower's 60 floors of offices. But while this might be a more serious concern for a typical skyscraper, the Freedom Tower is unique in another aspect as well - it has a commitment of $2 billion from the federal government.

DECEMBER: Liberty Bond Program Expires

In September 2002, the Liberty Bond Program was established, providing $8 billion in federally funded low interest bonds to encourage the redevelopment in Lower Manhattan. The program is set to expire at the end of 2004. Bills proposing its extension until 2009 will be working their way through Washington as the year progresses. If they fail, it does not look like the full amount will be doled out by the current deadline.

There has been much more interest in using the bonds for housing or commercial development outside of Lower Manhattan than the program currently allows for. $1.6 billion in Liberty Bonds have been set aside for housing in Lower Manhattan, and $2 billion for large commercial developments elsewhere in the city. A bill extending Liberty Bonds is likely to redesign the program to allocate more money for housing. But spreading the bonds more evenly throughout the city has met resistance - grants for a power plant in Astoria and a Bank of America building in midtown have been criticized.

For more about economic issues related to rebuilding, go to Rebuilding NYC's economic rebuilding topic page.

DECEMBER: Downtown

By the end of 2004, 50 acres of public space south of Houston Street will either be created or renovated, using $25 million in Lower Manhattan Development Corporation grants. The first of these spaces is complete - Drumgoole Plaza near Pace University opened in November, 2003. By the end of this spring, 6 more spaces will be completed, and 6 more will be done by the end of 2004 - a total of 13 new or revamped parks.

Physically, much has already changed downtown. A new PATH station and a footbridge crossing West Street at Vesey Street opened in late November 2003, reconnecting Ground Zero to areas that were severed from the World Trade Center site on 9/11. Work began on repairing two major transformers that helped provide electricity to Lower Manhattan before 9/11. Starting in August 2004, they will be operational again. Also last year, Millennium High School opened on Broad Street, and the Solaire, the world's first "green" residential high-rise opened at Battery Park City, partially funded by federal Liberty Bonds designed to encourage development in Lower Manhattan.

2001 - 2015

Phase one - in which the memorial, the Freedom Tower, and the transportation hub are to be completed - will end by 2009. From there, the rest of the buildings on Ground Zero will be completed over six years, creating an additional 7.2 million square feet of office space at the site. By providing construction and other jobs, rebuilding the World Trade Center site will provide as much as $15.4 billion to the city's economic output by 2015, when all construction will be completed, according to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

All the brick and mortar changes that have recently happened or seemed poised to happen are inspiring another change - one in the way people are talking. Ever since 9/11, reports from public and private policy groups have discussed the way that attacks harmed the city's economy, and people were discussing how well the city was coping with aftermath of the attack. Today they are beginning to discuss how events in Lower Manhattan can help New York.

Rebuilding in 2004



Reflecting Absence was selected on Tuesday as the final memorial design for the Ground Zero site.
• View the design

John Delaportas remembers the area around Liberty Street and Broadway near the World Trade Center as being one of rarely used office buildings, a place where nothing much happened even before September 11. But in the last few months he has seen a remarkable amount of activity.

"It used to be nothing. All of a sudden, there are little bars and clubs," he said. "I see very hip, young people going in and out of them. I think that's very positive thing for Lower Manhattan."

Things are picking up around Ground Zero, and it's not just the crowds. As the new year begins, the process of rebuilding seems to be ending one stage and entering another.

"Six months ago, we kind of knew that the memorial was the last chance for public input," said Mike Kuo, head of Imagine New York, established by the Municipal Art Society to give the public a say in the future of the World Trade Center site. The group announced on December 31, 2003 that it was closing its doors. "Once a memorial design is in place, and once a site plan is in place," Kuo said, "I don't know what more there is to do that will inspire people in massive numbers to come out and help to shape the process."

At the same time, things downtown have begun to show change - there are new ways for people from Battery Park City and New Jersey to get to Ground Zero, and new places for residents downtown to live and students to learn. There are also big plans for the year.

New York will be busy rebuilding in 2004. A design for the Freedom Tower was recently presented to the public, and construction is slated to begin in the fall. Final designs for the memorial are expected as early as this week. [Editor's Note: On Tuesday, January 6, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced the jury's selection of "Reflecting Absence"] The design for a new transportation hub will come out later this year. The quickened pace is largely due to an ambitious timeline laid out by George Pataki last spring, then updated in the fall, something that earned both high praise and harsh criticism; some accused the governor of political opportunitism.

Whether it is a good or a bad thing, changes are coming rapidly. Until now, the rebuilding process has been focused mainly on planning. But by the end of this year, much of this planning will be completed, and physical reconstruction will have begun. Below, we look at what is on the schedule for 2004.

JANUARY: Memorial Finalist

The memorial jury, which picked eight finalists last year, has narrowed it down to three, according to the New York Times, and expects to make a final design later this month. When they reconvene this week, the jurors will reportedly be considering only the Passages of Light: The Memorial Cloud , Garden of Lights , and Reflecting Absence . The jury will be evaluating designs that have been altered from those shown to the public in November, but because the process takes place behind closed doors it is not known how greatly the designs have been altered.

The memorial competition is the part of the rebuilding process that has been criticized more than any other for pushing ahead too quickly. Some have said that it is impossible to reflect on 9/11 so soon after the event, others have said that public dissatisfaction over the current designs proves the need to start again. But this unhappiness is not unanimous -- in a Pace University poll of visitors to the display of the designs at the Winter Garden, 62 percent of respondents said they were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the process.

Critics of the process are looking to other levels of government to step in. At the urging of the Coalition of 9/11 Families, which rejected all of the finalist designs because they built on top of the "footprints" of the original Twin Towers, a bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives that would sponsor a National Park Service study of the site to determine whether they warrant historic landmark status. Without a sponsor in the Senate - both New York Senators have declined to introduce it - the bill's supporters admit that they will have trouble getting the bill passed.

On the state level, a New York assemblyman announced last week that he will introduce a bill requiring the Port Authority to return ashes gathered after 9/11 to Ground Zero. Such ashes contain unidentified human remains, and some family members of victims want to have these remains buried on the site instead of at Fresh Kills landfill, where they are now. The announcement gave a push to an effort that has gained momentum in New Jersey, where a similar law was recently passed. Without a New York State bill, the New Jersey bill is only a symbolic gesture, because the Port Authority is jointly controlled by both states.

Critics of these efforts, including the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, have said that the passage of either the federal or the state bill would derail the entire rebuilding process.

For more about the memorial, go to Rebuilding NYC's memorial topic page.

SPRING: Transportation Hub Design

In spring, a preliminary design for Santiago Calatrava's transit station will be presented to the public. $1.7 billion in federal funds have already been allocated for downtown's "Grand Central Terminal," which is to be completed by 2006. Until then, the temporary PATH station that opened at Ground Zero in November will connect downtown to New Jersey.

Also to be presented in the spring is a plan to renovate the Fulton Street subway station, which is receiving $750 million from the federal government. This project will eventually connect to Calatrava's station, forming a major transportation hub in Lower Manhattan.

This month, a series of options for rail access from downtown to JFK and Newark Liberty airports will be announced, after a study paid for by the city and the Port Authority. If such connections are deemed viable, there is $1 billion available for a solution -- $500 million for each airport. Additionally, $250 million of federal transportation money is available if the project goes through.

Other plans will also take advantage of the $4.55 billion that the federal government has earmarked for New York's transportation needs. Over continued objections of some community members, $400 million will go to renovate the South Ferry subway station, and $900 million has been set aside to bury West Street, connecting Battery Park City to the rest of Lower Manhattan. Ferries connecting La Guardia and JFK airports to Manhattan are to be in place by the end of 2004 and 2005 respectively.

For more about transportation, go to Rebuilding NYC's transportation topic page.

SEPTEMBER: Cornerstone For the Freedom Tower

The cornerstone for the Freedom Tower is to be laid by September 11, 2004, the third anniversary of 9/11, and the building is slated to open in 2008 or 2009. While the design that was released in December has been well received, some still feel that there are issues to be worked out, such as how the spire from the original site plan has been integrated into the rest of the building and how the building will look at street level.

Another issue is the lack of a tenant, a rarity for an office building in this stage of development. Besides government officials, no one has expressed interest in moving into the Freedom Tower's 60 floors of offices. But while this might be a more serious concern for a typical skyscraper, the Freedom Tower is unique in another aspect as well - it has a commitment of $2 billion from the federal government.

DECEMBER: Liberty Bond Program Expires

In September 2002, the Liberty Bond Program was established, providing $8 billion in federally funded low interest bonds to encourage the redevelopment in Lower Manhattan. The program is set to expire at the end of 2004. Bills proposing its extension until 2009 will be working their way through Washington as the year progresses. If they fail, it does not look like the full amount will be doled out by the current deadline.

There has been much more interest in using the bonds for housing or commercial development outside of Lower Manhattan than the program currently allows for. $1.6 billion in Liberty Bonds have been set aside for housing in Lower Manhattan, and $2 billion for large commercial developments elsewhere in the city. A bill extending Liberty Bonds is likely to redesign the program to allocate more money for housing. But spreading the bonds more evenly throughout the city has met resistance - grants for a power plant in Astoria and a Bank of America building in midtown have been criticized.

For more about economic issues related to rebuilding, go to Rebuilding NYC's economic rebuilding topic page.

DECEMBER: Downtown

By the end of 2004, 50 acres of public space south of Houston Street will either be created or renovated, using $25 million in Lower Manhattan Development Corporation grants. The first of these spaces is complete - Drumgoole Plaza near Pace University opened in November, 2003. By the end of this spring, 6 more spaces will be completed, and 6 more will be done by the end of 2004 - a total of 13 new or revamped parks.

Physically, much has already changed downtown. A new PATH station and a footbridge crossing West Street at Vesey Street opened in late November 2003, reconnecting Ground Zero to areas that were severed from the World Trade Center site on 9/11. Work began on repairing two major transformers that helped provide electricity to Lower Manhattan before 9/11. Starting in August 2004, they will be operational again. Also last year, Millennium High School opened on Broad Street, and the Solaire, the world's first "green" residential high-rise opened at Battery Park City, partially funded by federal Liberty Bonds designed to encourage development in Lower Manhattan.

2001 - 2015

Phase one - in which the memorial, the Freedom Tower, and the transportation hub are to be completed - will end by 2009. From there, the rest of the buildings on Ground Zero will be completed over six years, creating an additional 7.2 million square feet of office space at the site. By providing construction and other jobs, rebuilding the World Trade Center site will provide as much as $15.4 billion to the city's economic output by 2015, when all construction will be completed, according to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

All the brick and mortar changes that have recently happened or seemed poised to happen are inspiring another change - one in the way people are talking. Ever since 9/11, reports from public and private policy groups have discussed the way that attacks harmed the city's economy, and people were discussing how well the city was coping with aftermath of the attack. Today they are beginning to discuss how events in Lower Manhattan can help New York.

 

Freedom Tower


The design for the Freedom Tower, the 1,776 foot tower that some claim will be the tallest building in the world, was released to the public at Federal Hall on December 19, 2003.

The building was originally a concept of Daniel Libeskind, the architect who designed the site plan for Ground Zero. The tower itself was a major selling point of the plan, and earned Libeskind the weighty endorsement of Governor George Pataki. Larry Silverstein, the developer who owns the rights to build at Ground Zero, was not as impressed, complaining that the site did not call for enough office space. Silverstein brought in David Childs of Skidmore Owings and Merrill to adapt the Freedom Tower concept to his needs.

What followed was a fiery collaboration between Childs, who was named the building's lead architect, and Libeskind, who was assigned the role of collaborating architect. It was not clear exactly what role either man held, though, and the struggle between the two became so bitter that as of last week they were reportedly not even on speaking terms.

There was at least the appearance of a hatchet burying at Federal Hall, with Childs praising Libeskind's plan and being careful to describe his tower as an adaptation that tried to stay true to his collaborator's original vision. Libeskind skirted the issue of Childs' changes altogether, speaking mainly of the building's relationship to the Statue of Liberty. The collaboration, he conceded, was difficult, saying that "is not just a couple of meetings. It's a struggle to make something great."

THE TOWER

The Freedom Tower incorporates the ideas of Libeskind, retaining Libeskind's original, symbolic height of 1,776 feet, as well as the asymmetrical form topped by an off-center spire that is intended to mirror the Statue of Liberty's torch-holding arm.

To this, Childs added another symbolic tip of the hat to a New York City landmark -- cables intended to resemble those of the Brooklyn Bridge encircle a 400 foot-tall area above the occupied portion of the building. Inside of this area are windmills that generate 20 percent of the building's power. The turbines are probably the most ambitious part of the building architecturally -- such a space has not been constructed in a high-rise office building before. They are also one of the places where Childs ventures farthest from the Libeskind vision; while Libeskind's original idea did envision a space at this height that was not occupied by conventional office space, it did not seem to call for anything as massive as Childs' proposal. This added bulk was reportedly one of the things that caused the most contention between the two architects.

Besides the addition of this unoccupied portion of the building -- which was put in at least in part because of the anticipation that fear will keep demand low for space on high floors -- Childs' main alteration was to twist the tower. The tapered building turns as it moves upwards. Childs claims that this will both shield the rest of the site from wind at ground level and allow the windmills to capture the maximum amount of energy sixty stories above the ground.

At sixty stories and 1,100 feet, the occupied portion of the Freedom Tower will be more than 250 feet shorter than the Twin Towers. The next 400 feet will be Childs' lattice and windmills area, and on top of that a 276-foot spire will reach 1,776 feet. Antennas will extend to about 2,000 feet. Even if the building does not remain the world's tallest, said Libeskind, "this height will never be surpassed," because it represents the Declaration of Independence.

Underground, the building will contain a shopping area and connections to the transit station being designed by Santiago Calatrava. The ground level will have lobbies to serve both the office areas and those visiting the public observation areas located at the base of the open area and the base of the spire. The famous restaurant Windows of the World, which was located in the World Trade center, said Childs, would be located on the top floor, "perhaps with windows in the ceiling that look up into the weaving cables above."

The building is slated to be completed by 2008 or 2009. Silverstein has promised the governor that the cornerstone will be laid by September 11, 2004, three years after the twin towers collapsed.

The Eight 9/11 Memorial Designs


Lyndon Harris was the priest in charge of St. Paul's Chapel when the World Trade Center was destroyed just a few yards away. His experience at Ground Zero, though, was not only one of loss. Now, more than two years later, he smiles as he recalls cooking hamburgers for rescue workers outside the church in the days after September 11. As the rescue effort continued, he said, more and more firefighters came to eat from his grill: "By the end of it, we were a four-star place."

That is why Father Harris had to admit last week that, while he was "just beginning to digest" the eight designs chosen as finalists in the competition for a 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero, he already felt somewhat disappointed that the designs don't reflect his own experience.

"They have a mood, a kind of a vibe, akin to a crypt," he said. "But they are not inspiring."

Father Harris was saying this a day after the designs were presented, as he sat in a small, windowless classroom at Pace University with about a dozen other participants in the latest series of workshops organized by Imagine New York to allow the public to respond. Within days, hundreds of New Yorkers had attended their workshops, and some 10,000 people had made comments on their web site. By early December, the group will submit a short report to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, summarizing what it has heard.

It is surely too soon to proclaim a consensus, as many people are still feeling out what they think. But the group with Father Harris -- among them, family members of some who died on 9/11, Ground Zero rescue workers, and people whose designs were among the 5,193 not selected in the final eight -- had some strong reactions.

They talked about what they liked about the designs: All eight recognized each individual victim, provided a contemplative space away from the city, and made creative use of light. And they talked about what they didn't like: The final designs were too "corporate," too "architectural," they had too many "bells and whistles," they lacked a certain humanity.

This is not the first time the public has reacted strongly to plans for Ground Zero, of course. When the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation presented six plans for the site as a whole on July 16, 2002 -- all of them with titles that began with the word memorial (Memorial Square, Memorial Plaza, Memorial Promenade, etc.) -- they were overwhelmingly condemned by the public. Officials bowed to public opinion and held a new competition. On December 18th, nine new plans were presented, the public responded much more favorably, and on February 27th, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Port Authority officials selected the plan designed by Daniel Libeskind.

While Libeskind's overall design for the World Trade Center's replacement suggested where the memorial would go, there was a separate competition for the design of that memorial, which began last August. It included a public hearing, the drawing up of a mission statement, the selection of a "jury" of 13, and then an open competition that, officials say, was the largest of its kind in history.

After some five months of sifting and sorting through the 5,201 entries and deliberating in absolute secrecy, the jury selected the eight that were presented to the public on November 19th. It didn't take months, but more like minutes, for New Yorkers to begin to respond, including those in Father Harris' group at the Imagine New York workshop.

"There was a feeling that there was a huge potential," said Nikki Stern, who lost her husband on 9/11, summing up the views of the group, "but somehow something missed the mark."

DESIGN HIGHLIGHTS: LIGHT AND WATER

The 5,201 design entered the competition were bound by several guidelines:

  • to acknowledge each individual who died, including all those who aided in rescue, recovery, and healing
  • to create a space for reflection and contemplation
  • to acknowledge the historical significance of 9/11 and encourage people to learn more
  • to evolve over time

Besides their common goal to reflect these guidelines, the eight finalists also resemble one another in the use of two key elements - light and water.

LIGHT

When Kevin Rampe of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation introduced the eight chosen designs on Wednesday morning, he characterized them as the next stage in a process that began on September 11, 2001 with the first makeshift memorials -- the flowers, the first heartfelt messages tacked to traffic poles and bus shelters, "the first candles lit at Union Square Park."

Light was also the dominant element in the temporary memorial called the Tribute in Light, two beams of light shining up from Ground Zero every night for a month.

So it is perhaps not surprising that light plays a major role in many of the eight finalists. Three of them use the word "light" in their titles.

In Garden of Lights, natural light comes through holes in the ceiling of underground chambers to create 2,982 individual beams of light shining on 2,982 altars, one for each of the victims.

Inversion of Light includes a space on the northern footprint containing a representation of the floor plan of the towers, lit from underneath. A pool covers the southern footprint, with light shining from below the water. During cold weather, the vapor created by the heat from the light will appear as flames on the surface of the water.

Passages of Light also uses the sun to light a sunken area, through a glass canopy that covers a large part of the memorial site. Beams of light also extend upwards from the floor of this area, creating the effect of a "cloud" of light.

Votives in Suspension creates a room on each of the footprints, dimly lit by hanging candles, one for each of the victims. The candles are suspended over shallow pools at different heights indicating the relative ages of the victims.

WATER

Water is a major element in many recent memorials. The 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon creates small pools beneath the lighted benches that represent the victims. The Oklahoma City memorial contains a shallow reflecting pool of moving water, which is intended to be a place of quiet reflection. Many of the eight memorials for Ground Zero incorporate similar ideas.

Suspending Memory is the plan with the most water, measured by volume. It fills the site with a large pool. The two footprints of the towers act as islands within the pool, connected by a stone and glass bridge. On these tree-shaded islands, there are lighted glass columns, one for each victim.

Reflecting Absence is almost this plan in reverse. A plaza covers the site, with two sunken pools standing where the towers once stood. Around the perimeter of the pools are underground chambers with glass walls.

Lower Waters and Dual Memory also use both light and water, but in a more complex manner than the other six designs.

In Lower Waters, sheets of water fall from a pool on top of a granite building on the northern footprint. Across a slanted park which covers the entire site, an open plaza on the southern footprint has a wall listing the names of the victims, trees, benches, and the facade of a 9/11 museum.

In a semi-enclosed area on the northern footprint, Dual Memory sends falling water down sheets of glass on which there are portraits of the victims. On the roof of this area are 2,982 spots of light, one for each victim. Ninety-two sugar maple trees planted in a lowered plaza on the southern footprint represent each of the countries that lost a citizen on 9/11.

THE NAMES, THE BEDROCK

All eight designs list all 2,982 names. For some of the firefighters who attended the unveiling ceremony at the Winter Garden on Wednesday, one question took priority: How were the names listed?

"We want to make sure that the firemen and the police officers that were killed in 9/11 are listed together as a group under the heading of FDNY [with] a description of what they did if they came here to save lives and lost their own,"said Patrick McCarbill, one of several dozen firefighters with the Coalition of Fallen Heroes who attended the ceremony in bunker jackets.

The question of names has been a sensitive one, as some feel strongly that rescue workers should be honored by being listed together with ranks, and others are adamant about avoiding the hierarchy that such an action would create among the victims. As the program for the memorial process did not guide designers on this issue, there were several different approaches.

Two of the designs list rescue workers together. Inversion of Light organizes names into groups of civilians and non-civilians, while Passages of Light groups the names based on where the victims were at the time of their deaths: There is a distinct group of names for those who died in each tower, separated out by civilians and rescue workers.

One more, Suspending Memory, distinguishes firefighters and police officers with a bronze helmet on the glass pillars used to represent the individual victims.

The rest of the designs either avoid the issue altogether (at least for the moment), or list names alphabetically.

But while the Coalition of Fallen Heroes found at least something to approve of in some of the plans, the Coalition of 9/11 Families said that each of the plans deserved a grade of F, because they failed to preserve the footprints of the towers to the bedrock level, a depth of 70 feet. None do because the Libeskind design called for the footprints to descend just 30 feet below street level.

"ARCHITECTURAL FEATS, LACKING IN FEELING"

The competition was open and anonymous, which its organizers said would encourage diversity among its entrants. Indeed, designs came from 49 states and 62 countries foreign countries. But architects dominated the finalist field, a result, say critics, of stringent requirements that kept laypeople from competing effectively. The eight designs very much reflect the background of their authors.

This led many to criticize the designs as overdone, gimmicky, or sterile, impressive as architectural feats but lacking in emotion. Participants in the Imagine New York workshops voiced disapproval that, while the designers invented creative ways to bring new elements in, few did much to highlight the elements already there, or to bring back artifacts that were originally at the site - like the damaged globe currently located at Battery Park.

Form, some observed, seems to have taken precedence over feeling.

Herbert Muschamp, the architecture critic from the New York Times, wrote that most of the designs "offer an excess of spectacle...Everything here is wonderfully polished. Each finalist could be the winner in a dozen memorial competitions. But that is not really a compliment, is it?"

At the same time that the designs were criticized for having too much of an architectural bent, they were accused of lacking sufficient planning perspective to have them become part of lower Manhattan beyond the walls of the memorial site itself.

Justin Davidson wrote in Newsday that the designers want to "build 10-story barriers and buried bunkers, they would flood the site and create islands - anything to carve a massive mausoleum out of a vital city."

"They have light, air, water and greenery," wrote Joyce Purnick in the New York Times. "What the eight designs for the World Trade Center memorial do not have is a feeling of New York."

THE PUBLIC AND THE PROCESS

To some critics, the final memorial designs were bound to be disappointing - not so much because of the designs themselves, says architectural historian Max Page, but because of what he sees as "fundamental flaws in the process" of choosing them. (See Rethink The Type Of Memorial We Want.) To some, one of those flaws was the lack of public participation.

Officials from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation see it differently. They refer to the future memorial at Ground Zero as the "people's memorial," and regularly champion the amount of public participation that they have built into the kind of design competition that usually takes place entirely away from public scrutiny. In drafting the mission statement for the memorial, the competition's organizers solicited written responses from all those who lost family members on 9/11, held public forums, and consulted with its Family Advisory Council on what requirements to put into the competition.

Since that point, the jury has been operating out of the public eye, and will not be open to an official comment period before a final design is chosen. Indeed, the jury members and the finalists are forbidden from talking to the public, though officials of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation say the jury will take into account reactions at civic meetings such as the ones held by Imagine New York.

That is the reason why the eight finalists were made public at all, rather than simply waiting to announce the final winning design, according to Rick Bell, head of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects "What is a two-stage process if not a chance for public discourse?"

Charles Wolf, a member of the Family Advisory Council, also believes that public opinion will filter back to the jury. But he thinks the jury should be the final arbiters. "Those who are shouting about the fact that they don't like this and they want to have that are a vocal minority. I respect their views, but I don't appreciate the fact that they are trying to preempt the jury process to advance their own views....A republic works better than a democracy in this case because you have a qualified representative to do it for you. The jury is our representative." (See Let The Memorial Jury Do Its Work.)

For the Coalition of 9/11 Families, this is not sufficient. To many of its members, an important element of the memorial has already been eliminated from consideration. The group has responded by looking outside the process for influence. In addition to sponsoring an online petition that calls for historic landmark status for the footprints of the towers, requiring that they be left untouched, the group has worked with Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Chistopher Shays to introduce a bill into Congress which would study whether the spots where the towers stood should be national landmarks.

Phil Craft, a spokesman for Maloney, sees the coalition's activities as a sign of a failure in the process of creating a memorial. "If the families are coming in droves [to complain]," he said, "then the question is, do they have a seat at the table?"

GOING FORWARD

The jury is expected to choose the winning design by January. Until then, the finalists will go into more depth. Funding, not an issue in the first stage, is now being considered, and designers have to draw up a budget for their designs. When the time comes, the project will be paid for through a foundation which is currently being established. Fundraising will begin in January, according to Governor George Pataki. There is also room for compromise and fine-tuning on the physical aspects of each plan.

Lyndon Harris of St. Paul's Chapel is optimistic that the final decision will be handled well, but he is still wary. The process is not over yet and the stakes, he observes, are high.

"Whatever statement we make is going to be read on a global scale," he said. "We have a great opportunity to do something great. We also have a great chance to screw up."

Rebuilding, Two Years Later


  iotw.2003.09.08.inside Construction at Ground Zero.
© 2003 Associated Press

Whatever the second anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center means to the public at large, to many of those who remain most intimately involved with the aftermath of September 11th -- the thousand construction workers at Ground Zero, the 13 members of the jury charged with selecting a memorial design, the countless architects and engineers and planners designing the new buildings and new transportation facilities and new streets - it means mostly a solemn pause from their focus on the future.

Much has happened since the rebuilding of Ground Zero began in earnest, which could be dated back to the first public hearing in May, 2002, when even those most affected by the historical moment of September 11, 2001 were concerned with what lay ahead: Monica Iken, founder of September's Mission, stood up and said, "I need to know that I can visit that site in the future and have a sense of peace and reflection on my husband's last day on Earth."

That future is much clearer now. New Yorkers who once debated whether the entire site should be dedicated to a memorial, for example, now largely accept that the memorial will be surrounded by a museum, performance art center, transit station and ring of office buildings.

Still, on the second anniversary, many issues remain unresolved, as cultural groups vie for a space at Ground Zero; the jury sorts through thousands of memorial designs; New Yorkers continue to study the environmental impact of 9/11, debate how best to recover from the economic damage, and work to make the city secure from future attacks.

Below, we look at eight issues in rebuilding -- where they are two years after September 11th, and where they are heading.


Table of Contents

• Ground Zero Architecture
• The Memorial
• Cultural Center and Museum
• Transportation
• Economic Rebuilding
• Security
• Health
• Future Anniversaries


Ground Zero Architecture

When officials announced Daniel Libeskind's design as the master plan for Ground Zero this spring, the Polish-born architect gave a breathless presentation of the design. He said that its skyline, with buildings rising in a spiral, was inspired by the twisting form of the Statue of Liberty, which he first saw when he immigrated as a thirteen-year-old to New York City by ship.

But New York City's skyline will not be shaped by Libeskind alone. In fact, he may not design any of the individual buildings that will rise from Ground Zero.

Libeskind's basic vision for the World Trade Center site includes a sunken memorial space that exposes the foundations of the original twin towers, reconnected streets and new public plazas, and a building topped by a spire that rises 1,776 feet into the sky. The Port Authority and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, who both contracted Libeskind to be the master architect for the World Trade Center site, have pledged that what is actually built will be true to this basic idea.

But developer Larry Silverstein, who has the lease to the World Trade Center site, has long been jockeying for more of a say in the rebuilding plans. And after weeks of meetings and discussions, Libeskind and the architect that Silverstein prefers, David Childs, came to an agreement this summer. Childs, whose past works include the nearly finished AOL Time Warner building at Columbus Circle, will create the actual design for the 1,776-foot tall tower. Libeskind will collaborate with Childs on the design.

And another world famous architect has been added to the mix. In August, the Port Authority chose well-known Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has designed train stations in Switzerland, Portugal, France and Belgium, to design the new transportation station at Ground Zero. Officials have likened the station to a new downtown Grand Central.

Calatrava will need to work closely with Libeskind, who, as master architect for the World Trade Center site, will set the design guidelines for the station. In Slate, Christopher Hawthorne called Calatrava a choice that is "both obvious and more than a little risky." Obvious, because of Calatrava's experience and reputation -- risky, because the architect is known for being a perfectionist that works alone, without experience in the power struggles that have been a large part of rebuilding so far.

For more on Libeskind's design for Ground Zero, see The Chosen Design on Rebuilding NYC.


The Memorial

Michael Kuo, whose father was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, has visited memorials around the world. He helped write the guidelines that will be used to select a design for a memorial at the World Trade Center site, and, as a planner for Imagine New York, is now organizing a series of public discussions about the memorial. At a hearing before the 13-member jury selecting the memorial design, Kuo stood up and said, "I would urge the jury to prefer designs that really go the extra mile in creating ways for future visitors to experience each of these individual people, so that they can know how special my father was, and how special everyone who was lost was."

Kuo, and the entire public, will see the future design for a World Trade Center site memorial during the next few months. The jury, meeting secretly in an unknown location, is now reviewing 5,200 memorial competition entries - all sent in with a registration number to keep the competition anonymous - and will choose as many as eight finalists this fall. The public will see all of the finalists' designs, and be able to comment on them, before a winning design is selected, but all decisions are up to the jury.

Whichever design the jury chooses, it is nearly impossible that everyone close to the tragedy will approve -- at least at first. In public hearings and other forums, victims' family members, downtown residents and others have voiced conflicting desires for the memorial. Some residents feel that Libeskind's original design for a sunken memorial space should be revised, and brought up to street level so that it doesn't separate one side of the neighborhood from the other.

And people continue to debate how the victims should be recognized. Some, like retired firefighter John Finucane, feel that the rescue workers who ran in to the towers to save those inside should be listed together, with their job titles. Others believe that this would unfairly give some victims more recognition.

Maya Lin's widely celebrated Vietnam Veterans Memorial, famous for its list of names engraved on smooth black granite, orders the names of veterans chronologically, in the order that they died or went missing. But if a memorial at Ground Zero includes a list of names, as it likely will, the names will be filled with additional meaning, because the memorial will house the unidentified remains of those who died on September 11. "The ethos will be different," wrote Michael Kimmelman recently in the Times. "There are no bodies buried at the Vietnam memorial, nor any unaccounted-for remains. That memorial is a list of names, a neutral place to meditate abstractly on the war and on the dead and missing, who are elsewhere."

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Memorial page.


Cultural Center and Museum

To commemorate the second anniversary of the attacks, the New York Historical Society will continuously screen films about September 11, and present performances of the play "The Guys," about a journalist who helps a fire captain write eulogies for firefighters who died on 9/11. The 92nd Street Y is holding a concert, billed as an "evening of memorial and renewal." For two years, these and dozens of New York City's institutions and organizations have been providing a place for people's cultural responses to the tragedy. Some of them may also play a major part in revitalizing lower Manhattan, in a new cultural center and museum at Ground Zero.

In his master plan for the World Trade Center site, architect Daniel Libeskind set aside a location at Vesey Street and a rebuilt Greenwich Street for a performing arts center. He also designed a diamond-shaped museum building, which is cantilevered over the memorial area at the center of the World Trade Center site.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has given cultural organizations until September 15 of this year to send in preliminary proposals for the arts center, the museum -- which will interpret the events of September 11 -- and other buildings set aside for culture inside the site.

The 92nd Street Y is working on a plan to open a new branch at the performing arts center that would share space with other groups, including the New York City Opera, which is looking to leave Lincoln Center and move to Ground Zero. The Y has also talked with Hunter College, which is interested in opening an academic arts program at the site, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Joyce Theater, whose director envisions a downtown dance studio with glass walls to allow people walking by to look in on rehearsals.

For now, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has asked cultural groups to send information and ideas, not formal proposals. The corporation has not said when they will make a final decision about which groups to include, but as they move forward with the project to create a cultural center at Ground Zero, wrote Martha Hostetter in Gotham Gazette, rebuilding officials should look for lessons from New York City's first attempt to use culture to revitalize a neighborhood: Lincoln Center. Some of Lincoln Center's mistakes - its huge, hard to fill performance spaces, separation from the street, and lost revenue opportunities - should not be repeated, Hostetter writes.

The 9/11 interpretive museum has also garnered interest from city institutions, including the New York Historical Society, which preserved many of the spontaneous memorials that people created across the city after September 11. Tom Bernstein, who owns the Chelsea Piers complex along with rebuilding official (and close friend of President George Bush) Roland Betts, is leading a campaign to create a "Museum of Freedom" at Ground Zero.

As planning continues for the museum, the debate over what September 11 means for New York, the United States, and the world will focus on this one building. Many people may believe that there are different foundations or assumptions by which a museum should "interpret" 9/11. New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp recently wrote that the underlying assumption behind Bernstein's Freedom Museum, as he sees it, is that "freedom has been assaulted, therefore retaliation is legitimate." But, writes Muschamp, "Not everyone saw the twin towers as symbols of freedom. For some, they represented the Kafkaesque mental enslavement of government bureaucracy and dull office routine. For others, they stood for Rockefeller power: for oil, that is to say, and the bizarre things we do to satisfy our need for it."

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Arts and Culture page.


Transportation

Planners envision Ground Zero not only as a new center for culture, but as a transportation hub as well. Santiago Calatrava's transit station, which will include a permanent PATH station, is just one of the many transportation projects planned for lower Manhattan. Early this year, the federal government agreed to provide $4.55 billion to build the hub, as well as a new subway complex called the Fulton Street Transit Center, which will unite four subway stations and nine lines and connect to Calatrava's hub underground. The funding will also go towards rebuilding the 1 and 9 South Ferry station, and improving lower Manhattan's streets and public places.

Officials are also developing plans to bring West Street underground in a tunnel for a short stretch along the World Trade Center site - an idea that many residents oppose. They are also studying how best to create a way for people to travel by train directly from lower Manhattan to the Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

One difficult transportation debate may be resolved: officials originally proposed building a garage for tourist buses beneath the 9/11 memorial, angering many victims' family members who feel that the place where their loved ones died is sacred ground. Now, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is developing plans to build the garage in another place near Ground Zero but not under its 16-acres.

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Transportation page.


Economic Rebuilding

This summer, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation held small workshops with invited community members in neighborhoods throughout downtown to talk about how the agency should spend the about $1 billion that remain in its coffers. In front of the Chinatown school where one meeting was held, a group of protesters stood outside, chanting "LMDC shame on you!"

The protesters were frustrated by the ways that federal aid has been spent so far, and they said they were angry that officials are just now turning to help Chinatown, where September 11 has had crippling effects on the economy.

Many of the grant programs that distributed federal aid funds to downtown residents and businesses came to a close this spring, amidst calls for extensions and complaints that those most in need of monetary help did not receive it. The advocacy group Labor Community Advocacy Network to Rebuild New York held a march in July, calling on the development corporation to spend its remaining billion on job creation programs.

Right now, New York City is losing jobs, not creating them. New York City Comptroller William Thompson recently reported that New York City's recession has continued for 30 months, as the city economy continued to shrink from April to June. The city has lost 241,500 jobs since the local recession started in January 2001 and was then worsened by the September 11 attacks, according to Thompson. The effects of the attacks on the city's economy have been longer lasting and more serious than previously estimated, and this spring the city continued to lose jobs faster than the country as a whole, the comptroller found.

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Economic Rebuilding page.


Security

This March, New Yorkers again saw members of the National Guard standing with machine guns along subway platforms and in front of city landmarks, as they did after September 11. As soon as the war began with Iraq, the police department put the security plans that they had been developing since 9/11 into place. The city launched "Operation Atlas," bringing thousands of heavily armed police officers to protect major subway stations, bridges, tunnels and other places that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called "signature locations."

The federal government's special registration program, which was developed late last year to make it easier to track immigrants from countries where the government believes that terrorist groups are active, created a difficult situation in many New York City immigrant neighborhoods. Immigrants without a green card (which included those here on student or work visas, those in the process of applying for a green card, and those who are undocumented ) from 25 different, largely Muslim countries were required to register with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service (formerly called the Immigration and Naturalization Servi ce) before this spring. Some were charged with crimes, others were detained for minor visa regulations, and many, especially undocumented immigrants, avoided registering altogether and fled the country.

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Security page.


Health

On September 18, 2001, Christine Whitman, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the public, "I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breathe," and many New Yorkers returned to their homes and jobs in lower Manhattan.

Much has changed since that day. Studies of people who lived and worked downtown during the fall of 2001 have found that many have developed respiratory illnesses from breathing dust from the World Trade Center site, dust that included ground up glass fibers, lead, concrete dust and asbestos.

In a new report (in pdf format), the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general found that the White House influenced the agency to reassure people it was safe to breathe the air downtown, even before tests had been finished. The agency's own tests, carried out in May 2002, found that mice exposed to Ground Zero dust developed respiratory problems.

"I have just one question for the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House: Why?" asked Joseph Dolman in Newsday. "I think Washington is going to regret its lack of candor on this issue for years. The next time it needs to offer reassurance on a complicated matter of public health - the next time it needs to calm people down or alert them to a present danger - who's going to believe it?"

Experts say that air quality has now returned to normal in New York City, but many area research hospitals are studying the long-term effects of exposure to the air downtown and in Brooklyn after 9/11, and some doctors are concerned that new construction downtown, with dust and exhaust from trucks, will exacerbate people's health problems.

Babies born to mothers who were pregnant on September 11, 2001 and lived and worked downtown were twice as likely to be smaller than normal, according to a Mount Sinai School of Medicine study of 187 women and their newborn babies. And nearly all of the 6,100 workers in offices and businesses below Canal Street who are participating in a Mount Sinai Hospital study are experiencing chronic choking feelings, gasping for air, and other asthma-like symptoms. Dr. Steven Levin, the leader of the study, has said that they are suffering from a type of asthma called Reactive Airways Disease Syndrome.

A Queens College study of 415 immigrant workers who cleaned up businesses and apartments near Ground Zero after September 11 found that nearly all of them had developed long lasting health problems, including chest pain, congestion and respiratory irritation. And studies of police officers and firefighters who worked at Ground Zero during the recovery found that they are also suffering respiratory problems, which researchers dubbed the "World Trade Center cough."

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Health page.


Future Anniversaries

The site where the Twin Towers once stood is now usually filled around the clock with workers, preparing to bring back the PATH trains that stopped running on September 11, 2001. Rows of lights already shine on an empty concourse down in the construction site, and the station (which will later become part of Santiago Calatrava's downtown transit hub) will reopen this November. When it does, Ground Zero will stop being a huge hole in lower Manhattan that the public looks in on, but never actually enters.

By the third anniversary of the attacks, tens of thousands of commuters will have been traveling back and forth each day between New Jersey and the PATH station in Ground Zero for nearly a year. Officials are scheduled to have broken ground to build the 1,776-foot tall tower that will rise from the northwest corner of the site, and New Yorkers will likely know a great deal more about what they will see downtown a dozen years later, on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11.


Rebuilding, Two Years Later


 

  Construction at Ground Zero.
© 2003 Associated Press

Whatever the second anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center means to the public at large, to many of those who remain most intimately involved with the aftermath of September 11th -- the thousand construction workers at Ground Zero, the 13 members of the jury charged with selecting a memorial design, the countless architects and engineers and planners designing the new buildings and new transportation facilities and new streets - it means mostly a solemn pause from their focus on the future.

Much has happened since the rebuilding of Ground Zero began in earnest, which could be dated back to the first public hearing in May, 2002, when even those most affected by the historical moment of September 11, 2001 were concerned with what lay ahead: Monica Iken, founder of September's Mission, stood up and said, "I need to know that I can visit that site in the future and have a sense of peace and reflection on my husband's last day on Earth."

That future is much clearer now. New Yorkers who once debated whether the entire site should be dedicated to a memorial, for example, now largely accept that the memorial will be surrounded by a museum, performance art center, transit station and ring of office buildings.

Still, on the second anniversary, many issues remain unresolved, as cultural groups vie for a space at Ground Zero; the jury sorts through thousands of memorial designs; New Yorkers continue to study the environmental impact of 9/11, debate how best to recover from the economic damage, and work to make the city secure from future attacks.

Below, we look at eight issues in rebuilding -- where they are two years after September 11th, and where they are heading.


Table of Contents

• Ground Zero Architecture
• The Memorial
• Cultural Center and Museum
• Transportation
• Economic Rebuilding
• Security
• Health
• Future Anniversaries


Ground Zero Architecture

When officials announced Daniel Libeskind's designas the master plan for Ground Zero this spring, the Polish-born architect gave a breathless presentation of the design. He said that its skyline, with buildings rising in a spiral, was inspired by the twisting form of the Statue of Liberty, which he first saw when he immigrated as a thirteen-year-old to New York City by ship.

But New York City's skyline will not be shaped by Libeskind alone. In fact, he may not design any of the individual buildings that will rise from Ground Zero.

Libeskind's basic vision for the World Trade Center site includes a sunken memorial space that exposes the foundations of the original twin towers, reconnected streets and new public plazas, and a building topped by a spire that rises 1,776 feet into the sky. The Port Authority and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, who both contracted Libeskind to be the master architect for the World Trade Center site, have pledged that what is actually built will be true to this basic idea.

But developer Larry Silverstein, who has the lease to the World Trade Center site, has long been jockeying for more of a say in the rebuilding plans. And after weeks of meetings and discussions, Libeskind and the architect that Silverstein prefers, David Childs, came to an agreement this summer. Childs, whose past works include the nearly finished AOL Time Warner building at Columbus Circle, will create the actual design for the 1,776-foot tall tower. Libeskind will collaborate with Childs on the design.

And another world famous architect has been added to the mix. In August, the Port Authority chose well-known Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has designed train stations in Switzerland, Portugal, France and Belgium, to design the new transportation station at Ground Zero. Officials have likened the station to a new downtown Grand Central.

Calatrava will need to work closely with Libeskind, who, as master architect for the World Trade Center site, will set the design guidelines for the station. In Slate, Christopher Hawthorne called Calatrava a choice that is "both obvious and more than a little risky." Obvious, because of Calatrava's experience and reputation -- risky, because the architect is known for being a perfectionist that works alone, without experience in the power struggles that have been a large part of rebuilding so far.

For more on Libeskind's design for Ground Zero, see The Chosen Design on Rebuilding NYC.


The Memorial

Michael Kuo, whose father was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, has visited memorials around the world. He helped write the guidelines that will be used to select a design for a memorial at the World Trade Center site, and, as a planner for Imagine New York, is now organizing a series of public discussions about the memorial. At a hearing before the 13-member jury selecting the memorial design, Kuo stood up and said, "I would urge the jury to prefer designs that really go the extra mile in creating ways for future visitors to experience each of these individual people, so that they can know how special my father was, and how special everyone who was lost was."

Kuo, and the entire public, will see the future design for a World Trade Center site memorial during the next few months. The jury, meeting secretly in an unknown location, is now reviewing 5,200 memorial competition entries - all sent in with a registration number to keep the competition anonymous - and will choose as many as eight finalists this fall. The public will see all of the finalists' designs, and be able to comment on them, before a winning design is selected, but all decisions are up to the jury.

Whichever design the jury chooses, it is nearly impossible that everyone close to the tragedy will approve -- at least at first. In public hearings and other forums, victims' family members, downtown residents and others have voiced conflicting desires for the memorial. Some residents feel that Libeskind's original design for a sunken memorial space should be revised, and brought up to street level so that it doesn't separate one side of the neighborhood from the other.

And people continue to debate how the victims should be recognized. Some, like retired firefighter John Finucane, feel that the rescue workers who ran in to the towers to save those inside should be listed together, with their job titles. Others believe that this would unfairly give some victims more recognition.

Maya Lin's widely celebrated Vietnam Veterans Memorial, famous for its list of names engraved on smooth black granite, orders the names of veterans chronologically, in the order that they died or went missing. But if a memorial at Ground Zero includes a list of names, as it likely will, the names will be filled with additional meaning, because the memorial will house the unidentified remains of those who died on September 11. "The ethos will be different," wrote Michael Kimmelman recently in the Times. "There are no bodies buried at the Vietnam memorial, nor any unaccounted-for remains. That memorial is a list of names, a neutral place to meditate abstractly on the war and on the dead and missing, who are elsewhere."

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Memorial page.


Cultural Center and Museum

To commemorate the second anniversary of the attacks, the New York Historical Society will continuously screen films about September 11, and present performances of the play "The Guys," about a journalist who helps a fire captain write eulogies for firefighters who died on 9/11. The 92nd Street Y is holding a concert, billed as an "evening of memorial and renewal." For two years, these and dozens of New York City's institutions and organizations have been providing a place for people's cultural responses to the tragedy. Some of them may also play a major part in revitalizing lower Manhattan, in a new cultural center and museum at Ground Zero.

In his master plan for the World Trade Center site, architect Daniel Libeskind set aside a location at Vesey Street and a rebuilt Greenwich Street for a performing arts center. He also designed a diamond-shaped museum building, which is cantilevered over the memorial area at the center of the World Trade Center site.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has given cultural organizations until September 15 of this year to send in preliminary proposals for the arts center, the museum -- which will interpret the events of September 11 -- and other buildings set aside for culture inside the site.

The 92nd Street Y is working on a plan to open a new branch at the performing arts center that would share space with other groups, including the New York City Opera, which is looking to leave Lincoln Center and move to Ground Zero. The Y has also talked with Hunter College, which is interested in opening an academic arts program at the site, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Joyce Theater, whose director envisions a downtown dance studio with glass walls to allow people walking by to look in on rehearsals.

For now, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has asked cultural groups to send information and ideas, not formal proposals. The corporation has not said when they will make a final decision about which groups to include, but as they move forward with the project to create a cultural center at Ground Zero, wrote Martha Hostetter in Gotham Gazette, rebuilding officials should look for lessons from New York City's first attempt to use culture to revitalize a neighborhood: Lincoln Center. Some of Lincoln Center's mistakes - its huge, hard to fill performance spaces, separation from the street, and lost revenue opportunities - should not be repeated, Hostetter writes.

The 9/11 interpretive museum has also garnered interest from city institutions, including the New York Historical Society, which preserved many of the spontaneous memorials that people created across the city after September 11. Tom Bernstein, who owns the Chelsea Piers complex along with rebuilding official (and close friend of President George Bush) Roland Betts, is leading a campaign to create a "Museum of Freedom" at Ground Zero.

As planning continues for the museum, the debate over what September 11 means for New York, the United States, and the world will focus on this one building. Many people may believe that there are different foundations or assumptions by which a museum should "interpret" 9/11. New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp recently wrote that the underlying assumption behind Bernstein's Freedom Museum, as he sees it, is that "freedom has been assaulted, therefore retaliation is legitimate." But, writes Muschamp, "Not everyone saw the twin towers as symbols of freedom. For some, they represented the Kafkaesque mental enslavement of government bureaucracy and dull office routine. For others, they stood for Rockefeller power: for oil, that is to say, and the bizarre things we do to satisfy our need for it."

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Arts and Culture page.


Transportation

Planners envision Ground Zero not only as a new center for culture, but as a transportation hub as well. Santiago Calatrava's transit station, which will include a permanent PATH station, is just one of the many transportation projects planned for lower Manhattan. Early this year, the federal government agreed to provide $4.55 billion to build the hub, as well as a new subway complex called the Fulton Street Transit Center, which will unite four subway stations and nine lines and connect to Calatrava's hub underground. The funding will also go towards rebuilding the 1 and 9 South Ferry station, and improving lower Manhattan's streets and public places.

Officials are also developing plans to bring West Street underground in a tunnel for a short stretch along the World Trade Center site - an idea that many residents oppose. They are also studying how best to create a way for people to travel by train directly from lower Manhattan to the Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

One difficult transportation debate may be resolved: officials originally proposed building a garage for tourist buses beneath the 9/11 memorial, angering many victims' family members who feel that the place where their loved ones died is sacred ground. Now, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is developing plans to build the garage in another place near Ground Zero but not under its 16-acres.

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Transportation page.


Economic Rebuilding

This summer, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation held small workshops with invited community members in neighborhoods throughout downtown to talk about how the agency should spend the about $1 billion that remain in its coffers. In front of the Chinatown school where one meeting was held, a group of protesters stood outside, chanting "LMDC shame on you!"

The protesters were frustrated by the ways that federal aid has been spent so far, and they said they were angry that officials are just now turning to help Chinatown, where September 11 has had crippling effects on the economy.

Many of the grant programs that distributed federal aid funds to downtown residents and businesses came to a close this spring, amidst calls for extensions and complaints that those most in need of monetary help did not receive it. The advocacy group Labor Community Advocacy Network to Rebuild New York held a march in July, calling on the development corporation to spend its remaining billion on job creation programs.

Right now, New York City is losing jobs, not creating them. New York City Comptroller William Thompson recently reported that New York City's recession has continued for 30 months, as the city economy continued to shrink from April to June. The city has lost 241,500 jobs since the local recession started in January 2001 and was then worsened by the September 11 attacks, according to Thompson. The effects of the attacks on the city's economy have been longer lasting and more serious than previously estimated, and this spring the city continued to lose jobs faster than the country as a whole, the comptroller found.

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Economic Rebuilding page.


Security

This March, New Yorkers again saw members of the National Guard standing with machine guns along subway platforms and in front of city landmarks, as they did after September 11. As soon as the war began with Iraq, the police department put the security plans that they had been developing since 9/11 into place. The city launched "Operation Atlas," bringing thousands of heavily armed police officers to protect major subway stations, bridges, tunnels and other places that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called "signature locations."

The federal government's special registration program, which was developed late last year to make it easier to track immigrants from countries where the government believes that terrorist groups are active, created a difficult situation in many New York City immigrant neighborhoods. Immigrants without a green card (which included those here on student or work visas, those in the process of applying for a green card, and those who are undocumented ) from 25 different, largely Muslim countries were required to register with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service (formerly called the Immigration and Naturalization Servi ce) before this spring. Some were charged with crimes, others were detained for minor visa regulations, and many, especially undocumented immigrants, avoided registering altogether and fled the country.

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Security page.


Health

On September 18, 2001, Christine Whitman, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the public, "I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breathe," and many New Yorkers returned to their homes and jobs in lower Manhattan.

Much has changed since that day. Studies of people who lived and worked downtown during the fall of 2001 have found that many have developed respiratory illnesses from breathing dust from the World Trade Center site, dust that included ground up glass fibers, lead, concrete dust and asbestos.

In a new report (in pdf format), the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general found that the White House influenced the agency to reassure people it was safe to breathe the air downtown, even before tests had been finished. The agency's own tests, carried out in May 2002, found that mice exposed to Ground Zero dust developed respiratory problems.

"I have just one question for the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House: Why?" asked Joseph Dolman in Newsday. "I think Washington is going to regret its lack of candor on this issue for years. The next time it needs to offer reassurance on a complicated matter of public health - the next time it needs to calm people down or alert them to a present danger - who's going to believe it?"

Experts say that air quality has now returned to normal in New York City, but many area research hospitals are studying the long-term effects of exposure to the air downtown and in Brooklyn after 9/11, and some doctors are concerned that new construction downtown, with dust and exhaust from trucks, will exacerbate people's health problems.

Babies born to mothers who were pregnant on September 11, 2001 and lived and worked downtown were twice as likely to be smaller than normal, according to a Mount Sinai School of Medicine study of 187 women and their newborn babies. And nearly all of the 6,100 workers in offices and businesses below Canal Street who are participating in a Mount Sinai Hospital study are experiencing chronic choking feelings, gasping for air, and other asthma-like symptoms. Dr. Steven Levin, the leader of the study, has said that they are suffering from a type of asthma called Reactive Airways Disease Syndrome.

A Queens College study of 415 immigrant workers who cleaned up businesses and apartments near Ground Zero after September 11 found that nearly all of them had developed long lasting health problems, including chest pain, congestion and respiratory irritation. And studies of police officers and firefighters who worked at Ground Zero during the recovery found that they are also suffering respiratory problems, which researchers dubbed the "World Trade Center cough."

For more on this topic, see Rebuilding NYC's Health page.


Future Anniversaries

The site where the Twin Towers once stood is now usually filled around the clock with workers, preparing to bring back the PATH trains that stopped running on September 11, 2001. Rows of lights already shine on an empty concourse down in the construction site, and the station (which will later become part of Santiago Calatrava's downtown transit hub) will reopen this November. When it does, Ground Zero will stop being a huge hole in lower Manhattan that the public looks in on, but never actually enters.

By the third anniversary of the attacks, tens of thousands of commuters will have been traveling back and forth each day between New Jersey and the PATH station in Ground Zero for nearly a year. Officials are scheduled to have broken ground to build the 1,776-foot tall tower that will rise from the northwest corner of the site, and New Yorkers will likely know a great deal more about what they will see downtown a dozen years later, on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11.


Lincoln Center


lincolncenter

  Aerial photograph of Lincoln Center
photo by David Lamb

Robert Moses never cared all that much for the performing arts, but he sure could put on a show. On May 14, 1959, the master builder brought President Dwight Eisenhower to New York for groundbreaking festivities at the future site of Lincoln Center.

As soon as Ike turned the first spade of earth, Leonard Bernstein, the dashing young music director of the New York Philharmonic, launched the orchestra and a choir from the Juilliard School into Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus.

The ceremony was a grand prelude to an even greater spectacle - the wholesale remaking of the Upper West Side. By the late 1960s, Moses would utterly transform a rundown neighborhood into a cultural hub, obliterating the very streets and lots, ironically, that Bernstein had brought to life on stage in "West Side Story" just a decade earlier.

Lincoln Center's creation marked the first time that a city attempted to use the arts as a catalyst for urban renewal and economic development on such a vast scale. It was the project that, as Moses biographer Robert Caro wrote, "best revealed the vast breadth of Moses'creative, city-shaping imagination." Over the years, Moses' vision would be adopted by cities across the country seeking a way to attract people and investment to their moribund downtowns.

Today, though, 44 years after Eisenhower stuck his shovel into the ground near the bustling intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue, Lincoln Center finds itself at a turning point. Some of its facilities are outdated and will need costly repairs. The New York Philharmonic has given up altogether on acoustically challenged Avery Fisher Hall and plans to return to Carnegie Hall, which it left in 1962. The New York City Opera might also bolt in a few years for a new house, either at Ground Zero or some other location.

The strains have led many to ask whether the concept behind Lincoln Center is still valid - and if it ever was. New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger recently wrote that rather than serving as a hub of activity for the West Side, Lincoln Center has become the "hole in the middle of the doughnut."

"The idea of a cultural campus set apart from the city never made much sense, even though Lincoln Center did, to be fair, promote the urban-renewal effect that Robert Moses intended," Goldberger wrote. "The neighborhood would probably have been gentrified without Lincoln Center, of course, but hardly in the same way, or on the same timetable."

Goldberger's complaints are chiefly with Lincoln Center's architecture and its relationship to the cityscape. But as Lincoln Center embarks on a major renovation program, it also finds itself answering questions about its artistic and economic viability. Does the concept of a cultural campus still make sense? Would dispersing its component companies promote growth elsewhere? What kind of future does Lincoln Center have if one or perhaps two of its major constituents leave?

GALVANIZING EFFECT

Moses was far less interested in helping artists and musicians than he was in using them as a magnet for development. On 15 acres that had been largely filled with boarding hotels and sagging tenements, Moses assembled a university, two opera houses, a concert hall, a library, a music school, several theaters, a public plaza, a park with a band shell and an underground parking garage. The construction displaced thousands of families. But Moses certainly succeeded in attracting builders.

From his office, Reynold Levy, the president of Lincoln Center, can see highrises almost everywhere. Across the street from his window, cranes mark the site of a new apartment tower opposite Avery Fisher Hall. To the south, the twin-towered AOL Time Warner Center, which will include the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, nears completion.

"I don't know of anyone who doesn't credit Lincoln Center for helping to galvanize this extraordinary amount of economic development around it, from its beginning to this day," Levy says.

According to Lincoln Center officials, taxable property in the Lincoln Square neighborhood appreciated 1,724 percent from 1963 to 1999, compared to 309 percent growth for Manhattan as a whole. The additional growth represents an extra $154 million in property tax revenues for the city each year.

Overall, Lincoln Center officials attribute $675 million a year in direct and indirect economic activity within the city to their complex. While some of that activity would have been generated by arts groups whether Lincoln Center existed or not, Levy says that clustering these organizations creates a sort of multiplier effect that draws business and activity.

STILL A MAGNET

Indeed, these days, big retailers and book and record superstores call the Lincoln Center area home, attracted by the crowds that are regularly drawn to New York's cultural megastore. And it's not just concert- and opera-goers who fill the streets around Lincoln Center. Business leaders say the performing arts center has brought residents back from the suburbs and kept others from moving out of the city.

"It's still crucial to the economic viability of this neighborhood," says Monica Blum, president of the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. "Five new buildings are going up in the neighborhood or have just been completed and there's been a 13 percent increase in population just since the last census. People want to eat here and want to shop here. In many instances, it's the Lincoln Center patrons who want to live here."

Bringing arts organizations together also stimulates creativity, Lincoln Center officials say. True, it's impossible to attend more than one performance at a time, but performers and administrators can benefit from proximity. The result can be programs that cross disciplines, examining an idea or an art form both on stage and, say, on screen through the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

That kind of collaboration will become more prevalent in the future, Lincoln Center promises, as it develops programs to fill Avery Fisher Hall once the Philharmonic leaves. Levy suggests that Lincoln Center's diversity could, for instance, attract visiting orchestras for extended residencies by offering symphony musicians a chance to perform at the Met and giving visiting conductors opportunities to work with young musicians at Juilliard.

Economic and artistic opportunities have driven a number of cities to emulate Lincoln Center's example, even as the original has come in for criticism at home. Cities ranging from Newark to Philadelphia to Dayton, Ohio to Kansas City have recently completed or begun their own performing arts centers modeled on the idea that the arts can spur an urban renaissance.

FADED GLORY

Still, even Lincoln Center's supporters acknowledge that changes are needed. "I think it's lost its luster," says Blum. "It needs polishing."

The plaza, with its famous fountain in the center, looks great on postcards and comes alive when events such as Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors are scheduled, but it can be a cold and forbidding place at other times. The travertine stone that covers most of the buildings is flaking off, a victim of wear and pollution. Most critically, just about every group needs more space and nearly all the facilities will have to be modernized if they are to live up to their reputation as being world-class.

At one time, a $1.5 billion proposal was on the table that would have included a thorough renovation of Lincoln Center, including the rebuilding or replacement of Avery Fisher Hall for the Philharmonic. Also floated was the idea of placing the entire plaza under a glass canopy designed by celebrity architect Frank Gehry.

Economic realities, however, forced Lincoln Center to proceed more modestly. The organization has hired the architects Elizabeth Dillard and Richard Scofidio to help knit Lincoln Center into the fabric of the West Side by removing the barriers to street life that were part of Moses' original suburbanizing impulse.

STREET-LEVEL SHOWCASE

West 65th Street, which now resembles a dark tunnel, will be narrowed and turned into a street-level showcase. The bridge over the street will be removed and screening rooms and glass-fronted studios will give passersby a view of artists at work, creating a new attraction much like the Today show's transparent studio at Rockefeller Center. Also planned for the northern end of Lincoln Center are an eatery, a bookstore, a boutique and a TKTS booth that will make it easier to attend a performance on a whim.

Levy says 65th Street would serve as a lively counterpart to Lincoln Center's other open spaces, which many people consider a refuge from the city streets.

"Our aim is to achieve the best of both worlds, to retain the serenity, the peace and the openness that Lincoln Center now affords . . . and at the same time to infuse some vitality and bring energy off of Broadway into 65th street," he says.

Whatever people think of Lincoln Center, one thing is certain - it is here to stay. And while some of the ideas that led to its birth are now out of favor among planners, Lincoln Center's legacy is undeniable.

As Hilary Ballon, a Columbia University professor of art and architecture, wrote in a recent New York Times article, "Moses is now widely regarded as the antihero of modern planning, but his approach to urban renewal at Lincoln Center was bold and influential. Lincoln Center embodies the proposition that the arts are an indispensable element of good urbanism. From the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris to the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao, Spain, it has proven a valid and enduring idea."

Blogging And The City


 

Thousands of New Yorkers are inviting total strangers into their lives by posting their thoughts online (and linking to things that interest them) in often personal journals, called web logs or just blogs.

Blogs are particularly useful for telling the folks back home what you are up to without having to pick up the phone or write e-mail; in a city of transients and transplants, this is one technology that serves a true purpose. In the media capital of the world, though, it shouldn't be surprising that some bloggers have aspirations beyond personal expression, aiming to be treated as journalists ... or media pundits ... or at least gossip columnists. In fact, a few have started to realize their ambitions, launching (or advancing) professional writing careers as the result of their blogs.

As Catherine Shu pointed out in her list of favorite NYC blogs on one of Gotham Gazette’s own weblogs (see her entry for June 26), there is a blog called nycbloggers that aims to connect to as many NYC blogs as possible. The key feature is an interactive map which links each blog to the author’s closest subway stop. The exact time of each entry is posted and authors often mention where they are or where they’ve been prior to writing.

Another list of sites in and around NYC is searchable at GeoURL. GeoURL was written by Joshua Schachter, a visionary blogger that started community entertainment site memepool in 1998.

You can find NYC blogs on just about everything. For example, there is a list of 32 blogs that (more or less) have something to do with technology.

And blogs are faster and easier to create than Web sites, using Web publishing software like MovableType or inexpensive services like Blogger and Blog*Spot.

Many bloggers like to link to one another, and some favorite New York blogs have emerged. Gen Kanai, a New Yorker currently living in Tokyo, lists his favorite New York blogs as Gawker and Gothamist, along with blogs by Anil Dash, Jason Kottke, Jeff Jarvis and Paul Ford. Another NYC-centric blog, EverythingNY, begun by Ari Paparo in March, has recently started to summarize and link to all the latest posts from some half dozen of his favorite NYC blogs -- updated automatically, every 15 minutes!

Blogs have become businesses, albeit not very profitable ones yet. That said, some of the most skilled bloggers claim to make upwards of $20,000 per year in additional income from contributions from friends, family, fans and those who just can’t live without hearing from their favorite bloggers. Nycbloggers sells merchandise like “Brooklyn Bloggers” t-shirts and “Big Apple” coffee mugs, lunch boxes and messenger bags to pay for their overhead and keep people passionate about blogging. Some blogs have started to run ads.

If blogs have reached the point of competing with other media outlets for readers' attention, are they strengthening our relationships, communities and cities or are they merely self-centered musings gone public? It is too early to tell.

However, the impact of this new medium was felt after 9/11 as many New Yorkers turned to their blogs to share their experiences and grief. Thus, the nycbloggers site has dedicated a whole section to 9/11 posts which is linked to the subway stations closed after the attack. There were also those observers who argued after the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times that bloggers were responsible for keeping that story alive past what would have been its normal shelflife, disrupting the Times so much that the publisher of the Times felt forced to accept the resignations of the executive editor and managing editor.

What’s next? Mobile blogging or sending images from your cell phone directly to the Internet. The images include location information about the place where the photo was taken.

“ Moblogging” (pronounced “moe blogging” NOT “mob logging”) has already become popular with a core group of eclectic enthusiasts in Europe and Asia where camera-phones have been already on the market for several years. In early July, the first International Moblogging Conference (1IMC), was held in Tokyo. The excitement is spreading as more advanced phones hit the market in New York. By next year, there could be enough mobloggers in New York to warrant hosting the event here.

In the future, cities may also allow people to access information about their surroundings on small wireless devices. For example, NYU graduate and Web-site design guru Adam Greenfield offers this vision of how technology might be integrated into cities:

" You're on the corner of Washington and Greene facing southeast. In front of you is what is now NYU's Main building. Now look up - you're looking at the site of the worst fire in the history of New York City. On March 25th, 1911, 146 women doing textile piecework burned to death inside of fifteen minutes because the bosses had locked the doors on them."

In Other News

Arts and technology non-profit Eyebeam is playing host to several great events this Summer including a Robot festival in partnership with New York-Tokyo and its sixth annual Digital Day Camp. The day camp focuses on civil disobedience, cyber-activism and contagious media. It will have a public exhibition of student’s final projects from July 29 to August 2.

Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.



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