Gotham Gazette

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Citizens Union

Rebuilding NYC

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Testimony

Remarks by Mayor Bloomberg before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, March 31, 2003

Governor Kean and members of the commission: Welcome to New York City.

Your commission has a broad mandate: To look at the reasons why 9/11 happened; to consider the steps the federal government should take to make sure attacks like that don't occur again; and to propose the measures that should be taken now to prepare us to respond to future terrorist incidents.

Much of your work will focus on such important questions as: How did terrorists get into the country? What should we do to make our borders safe? How were the terrorists allowed to learn to fly planes in our own country? How on earth could they get by the airport security with the obviously unenforced and ineffective federal regulations? And how can we stop other acts of terrorism in the future?

These are the issues for your commission. I want to focus on different, but also important, issues. I will describe our City government's reaction to the attack on the World Trade Center, including: our emergency response that day; our recovery effort in the days and months immediately afterward; and what we have done since in the arenas of counter-terrorism and preparedness.

Simply put, the terrorist attack on 9/11 was one of the darkest days in New York's history. It took the lives of 2,700 of our loved ones, friends and colleagues, including more than 360 valiant city firefighters, police officers and emergency workers. It revealed our vulnerability to murderous plots formulated half a world away. It shattered forever any illusion that our vast ocean boundaries can protect us.

But out of the devastation came one of our finest hours, defined by the heroism of those who rushed in the buildings to save others, the selflessness of New Yorkers who supported the recovery through acts as simple as lining up on West Street to say "thank you" to our emergency workers, and the resilience of New Yorkers, who refused to stop living their lives in the difficult days, weeks and months that followed the attack.

New York City has learned and continues to learn the lessons of 9/11. Today, I want to underscore the need for an effective and ongoing counter-terrorism partnership with the Federal government.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta are with me today. They will make statements following my testimony, and are prepared to answer your questions.

As you know, I was not the Mayor on 9/11; our Administration took office the following January. But the effects of 9/11 have been a major focus of our Administration over the last 15 months. We have examined the city's response to 9/11 thoroughly-and I can tell you that it was swift, massive, heroic and extraordinarily effective.

Within ten minutes of the first attack at 8:46 a.m., 50% of the police department's special operations units were deployed and were either at or on their way to World Trade Center. By 9:00 a.m., before the second plane even hit, both the Fire Department and our Emergency Medical Services had command posts on the scene directing rescue operations. By 9:10 a.m., less than a half-hour after the first tower was struck, 100% of the Fire Department's rescue and high-rise units had been ordered into action.

Police officers immediately secured the perimeter around the World Trade Center and Police Emergency Services Units entered the towers to assist in evacuations. Department of Health officials started considering public health effects and began contacting area hospitals to establish procedures for accepting the heavy influx of injured people that was anticipated. Sadly, those numbers did not materialize-I say sadly, because instead of the influx of injured New Yorkers, we experienced massive fatalities.

The professionalism of our rescue efforts, and the bravery of those who carried them out, is encapsulated in one statistic: some 25,000 people were safely evacuated from the World Trade Center that morning-the most successful urban emergency evacuation in modern history.

After the towers collapsed, the City's response was just as exemplary. Department of Sanitation officials at the recently closed Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, knowing they had heavy lifting and hauling equipment at hand, immediately made plans to send that equipment into Manhattan. Officials of the City's Department of Design and Construction, or DDC, acted with equal dispatch, obtaining equipment from some of the city's major construction firms. Despite the fact that its command center was destroyed in the attack, the City's Office of Emergency Management-OEM-established a temporary command post. By the evening of September 11th, lights lit up the entire site while the search for survivors went on.

Firefighters worked day and night to extinguish fires that burned beneath the rubble for months. The Department of Design and Construction, along with the Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management, spearheaded inter-agency coordination among city agencies and with Federal and State agencies and private organizations.

In the first five days alone, almost 3,000 truckloads of debris were removed. Over the next seven months, an average of more than 7,000 tons of debris per day was taken from the site. Barging operations were established at Hudson River Piers 25 and 26 to transport debris from Manhattan to the Fresh Kills Landfill, which was re-opened to accommodate the enormous tonnage of material.

The recovery proceeded in a manner that made the search for human remains the highest priority. Work came to a halt any time it appeared such a discovery might be made. To date, the remains of 1,481 victims of the attack have been identified by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, an office that has led the nation in its use of state-of-the-art DNA identification technology.

The clearing of the site, which was initially expected to take years, instead took eight months. The work was not only accomplished much faster than expected, but done under- budget, without a single loss of life, and with an injury rate far less than at an ordinary construction site, despite the unprecedented conditions in which the work was done.

In retrospect, there is little the City could have done on 9/11 to avoid the tremendous loss of life that occurred so quickly after the attacks. The failure of airport security doomed the 2800 poor souls who are no longer with us. However, since then we have taken it upon ourselves to learn everything possible from this tragedy.

Shortly after 9/11, the consulting firm of McKinsey & Co. agreed to study, on a pro bono basis, the response of the police and fire departments to the attack on the World Trade Center and to make recommendations for the future. These extremely valuable consultant studies complemented studies already underway in both these departments. And many of the consultants' recommendations were already in effect or were being implemented when their final reports were issued.

For example, at the NYPD, one of Commissioner Kelly's first acts was to establish a counter-terrorism bureau and expand the department's intelligence division. Protective and other equipment issued to officers responding to possible terrorist incidents also was upgraded. McKinsey & Co. also recommended that the NYPD create a comprehensive disaster response plan with the means to effectuate it-measures that have been carried out.

The McKinsey report concerning the FDNY was eloquent in its praise of the heroism and sacrifice of our firefighters. It also focused on four principal areas: operational preparedness; planning and management; communications technology; and the provision of counseling and support services to members of the department and their families. Since its release, the Fire Department also has appointed a terrorism advisory taskforce headed by former CIA director James Woolsey. Perhaps the most encouraging McKinsey finding was that while the city's massive response was taking place, the rest of the city remained protected-with response time to emergencies elsewhere in the five boroughs barely impacted.

Other key agencies have also responded to the lessons of 9/11. The Department of Health has enhanced its bio-terrorism surveillance, developed a web-based system to communicate with medical providers in our city, and is building a state-of-the-art bio-terrorism laboratory. Our Office of Emergency Management has an interim headquarters, and is in the process of building a new permanent home. It has also coordinated a series of inter-agency preparedness exercises, which have guided our city's response to the increased security needs occasioned by the current war in Iraq.

New York City, which unfortunately is one of, if not the, primary potential targets of a terrorist attack, must be prepared both to prevent those attacks and to respond quickly and effectively if they occur.

My Administration is committed to doing just that. We have developed an extraordinarily system to guard and protect this City, and every day we are making those systems even more effective. We are developing the most sophisticated systems possible both to prevent terrorism and respond to it.

Some ten days ago, I met with President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to brief them on the counter-terrorism measures the city has taken because of the war in Iraq, known as Operation Atlas. Secretary Ridge later said "there is no city in this country that does a better job of working across the board to prevent terrorism than the City of New York."

After 9/11, President Bush pledged $20 billion in Federal rebuilding assistance to New York City-and he has been as good as his word. We also have benefited from bi-partisan support in both Houses of Congress on this matter.

But we need additional help from the Federal government to meet the high costs of homeland security. New York City is the nation's financial capital and its communications nerve center. Protection for New York is protection of the nation.

And the key to our City's ability to respond to any future terrorist attacks is funding. I am sure you are aware of the City's fiscal plight. We face a multi-billion dollar budget gap for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. Much of that deficit is the result of the increased expenses-and decreased economic activity-created by 9/11 and its aftermath.

I urge the Commission, in the most emphatic form possible, to recommend to Congress that it appropriate sufficient monies earmarked to the cities most vulnerable to attack, to help us defray the extraordinary costs of protecting our citizens. Specifically, we have requested additional funds for counter-terrorism training, equipment and to cover the costs of our massive security operations around the city in the supplemental appropriation the Administration sent to Congress last week.

Homeland Security funds should be allocated on the basis of threat analysis and risk. Any other formula defies logic and makes a mockery of the country's counter-terrorism efforts. New York City has been targeted four times by terrorists, and the federal government cannot ignore our symbolic value, recent history and common sense as it works to increase homeland security. To argue most other cities have comparable threats is ridiculous. New York is estimated to get $11 million out of $566 million from the last Homeland Security distribution. At some point, politics has to give way to practicality. If we distributed monies for the military this way, our troops in Iraq would have bows and arrows.

I want to close with some comments on another problem that deserves your attention, and that of our policy makers. It is how to deal with the massive destruction and personal injuries that can result from a terrorist attack.

New York's response to 9/11 was truly extraordinary. Within hours of the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, the City government and private companies had equipment and personnel at Ground Zero to undertake the massive recovery and debris removal operations that were necessary. The City and these contractors stayed there till the end, and did so selflessly, without a thought to the consequences.

However, in the real world there are consequences, and one of those is lawsuits. The City and the private contracting community are now aware of the risks we took on without the benefit of federal protection to cover our operations. It took over a year -- and a special act of Congress -- for any significant insurance to become available to protect the City and private contractors from such lawsuits arising from the clean-up operation, and the insurance provided does not in fact cover the amounts claimed in the lawsuits.

Personal injury claims regarding alleged long-term health damage could bankrupt our city over the next 20 years. Congress must give us retrospective indemnification, or the drag on the national economy will ruin opportunity throughout all 50 states.

Knowing what we know now, it is imperative that a federal indemnification plan be enacted that would insure municipalities and private contractors, so that in the future, when we respond to a terrorist attack, we will be protected against the inevitable lawsuits. The attacks on 9/11 were attacks on the United States, not just the City of New York. We cannot afford the substantial risk that, in the wake of another terrorist attack, a municipality or state will feel it has to wait for the Army Corps of Engineers to do the necessary work, or private companies will feel they have to refuse to provide assistance until and unless a statute is passed giving protection.

Therefore the Commission should urge Congress to enact a special indemnification or insurance program for governmental entities and their contractors who respond to such an attack, to assure that FEMA can and will fund significant, immediate insurance coverage to such governments and contractors. Without Congressional action, the nation will be unprepared to respond to the destruction created by any future terrorist attacks.

Despite their extraordinarily busy schedules, and the work they are doing right now to meet the heightened security concerns accompanying the war in Iraq, Commissioners Kelly and Scoppetta are here to address the Commission and answer any questions you may have.

Before turning over the floor to you, and them, I want to conclude with this thought:

You are charged with performing a great service to our nation. And we all want to do what we can to remember all those who perished on 9/11 and those who so selflessly toiled for the days, weeks and months thereafter. We must learn the lessons of that terrible day-and make sure that this city and other cities in our nation have the communications systems, the well-trained personnel, and the Federal assistance we need to prevent and respond to such attacks in the future.

The Governor's Projects for Lower Manhattan

On April 24, Governor George Pataki announced what he called a "bold, daring and swift" schedule for rebuilding lower Manhattan and new transportation projects downtown.

He pledged that the framework for Daniel Libeskind's 1776-foot tower will be complete by September 11, 2006, and that the governor's office will be the first tenant to move in when the building opens for occupants two years later.

He also said that a tunneled West Street, a project that has met much opposition and has been up in the air until now, will be finished by 2005, the same year that a fast ferry service will take commuters from lower Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport.

What Pataki has planned for lower Manhattan, year by year:

This summer, a new greenmarket, originally proposed by the City Council, will open in Liberty Park Plaza, at Broadway.

In September, a new high school at 75 Broad Street, called the Millennium High School, will open for 250 9th and 10th graders. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will give $3 million toward the school project.

In November, the temporary PATH station will open, and PATH service to and from New Jersey will be restored.

A new enclosed bridge over West Street near Vesey Street will open, to connect the World Financial Center and Battery Park City to the rest of lower Manhattan. The walkway that already spans West Street at Liberty Street will be upgraded, and a new covered walkway on Liberty and Church Streets will be built.

This fall, a mural depicting Daniel Libeskind's 1,776 foot tower will replace the black shroud covering the Deutche Bank building. The bank is still negotiating the building's future with its insurance providers.

Pataki also called on the development corporation to spend $10 million in 2003 to improve open spaces in lower Manhattan, in Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and other neighborhoods. Last December, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for these improvements in his vision for downtown. Pataki said that the development corporation will work with the city on these projects.

Pataki said that by the end of 2003 he will make a decision on how to connect lower Manhattan to Long Island and Kennedy International Airport by rail, whether to use existing tunnels and tracks or build a new, expensive tunnel underneath the East River.

Fast ferry service from lower Manhattan to La Guardia airport will begin late this year.

Fast ferry service will now be available to Kennedy International Airport as well.

Pataki said that work on a project to bury West Street from Vesey Street to Liberty Street (which has met opposition from community groups) will be finished in 2005, and West Street will be re-made as a promenade lined with trees.

Also in 2005, the reinforcement of the slurry walls which hold back the Hudson River on the west side of the memorial site will be finished.

By the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Pataki said, the frame of Daniel Libeskind's 1,776-foot tower -- which the governor has dubbed the "Freedom Tower" -- will be completed.

Libeskind's Wedge of Light plaza, a public space where no shadows will fall on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, will open in late 2006. The sunken area for the 9/11 memorial will be complete.

The permanent PATH station at the World Trade Center site will also open late this year.

The new South Ferry Subway Terminal will open.

Libeskind's tower, which Pataki said will be built by World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein, will be ready for tenants. Pataki pledged that the governor's office will be the first to move in to the new building. Of course, Pataki's own term ends in 2006, leading many to take his pledge as a sign that he plans to seek a fourth term.

The new subway station east of the World Trade Center site, the Fulton Transit Center, will open.

Underground pedestrian tunnels connecting the PATH station and the Fulton Transit Center will open. The extension of Greenwich and Fulton Streets through the World Trade Center site will also be finished.

Riders on the PATH train will now be able to ride all the way to Newark Liberty International Airport.

The 2003 Tribeca Film Festival

Timothy Speed Levitch

Philosopher tour guide Timothy Speed Levitch, featured in the documentary The Cruise, has an idea for a 9/11 memorial. But it does not quite fit in with the guidelines of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's memorial competition.

"Sixteen acres of blazing green grass, a place for togetherness, healing out loud, and spontaneous culture, and in the middle of the park, the memorial should not be an inanimate slab of stone, but should have a heartbeat," Levitch says while giving a lower Manhattan tour in Richard Linklater's documentary Live from Shiva's Dance Floor. And that isn't the end of it. The heart that is beating should be a buffalo heart, Levitch says, hugging the line between philosopher and crackpot, "the lost sages of North America brought back to the existential front-and-center of America."

The movie is one of nine about New York City after September 11 playing at the second annual Tribeca Film Festival this week. The festival, which Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal started as a way to boost a neighborhood damaged by 9/11, has more movies and bigger sponsors this year. "The festival will crank up the feel-good early 1960s-style frippery, and steer clear of the Sundance-style wheeling and dealing. There will be fewer Sept. 11 memorials, less Marty Scorsese, but more Al Pacino," the New York Observer wrote last week. But there are still plenty of September 11 memorials, even though, like Live from Shiva's Dance Floor, they are far from straight-forward documentaries about the disaster.

The documentary Ashtanga, N.Y. shows aging yoga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois' visit to New York City in September 2001. Jois helps New Yorkers -- including Gwenyth Paltrow and Mike D from the Beastie Boys -- cope with 9/11 in his Soho studio.

In the feature Ash Tuesday, Janeane Garofalo and Giancarlo Esposito play lower Manhattan residents dealing with September 11. The movie shows how humor and wit can be responses to tragedy, and is billed as a comedy-drama. "It was important to me that we complete principle photography prior to the first anniversary of September 11. I wanted all of us, cast and crew, to make the film with a fresh wound, and without the benefit of perspective," filmmaker Jim Hershleder said in a director's statement.

In Evan Oppenheimer's movie Justice, E.R.'s Erik Palladino plays an artist who creates a comic book hero to help him get over his grief after September 11.

A schedule of films -- features, documentaries and shorts -- about rebuilding New York (for a full festival schedule, go to the film festival website)

The 2003 Tribeca Film Festival

Timothy Speed Levitch

Philosopher tour guide Timothy Speed Levitch, featured in the documentary The Cruise, has an idea for a 9/11 memorial. But it does not quite fit in with the guidelines of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's memorial competition.

"Sixteen acres of blazing green grass, a place for togetherness, healing out loud, and spontaneous culture, and in the middle of the park, the memorial should not be an inanimate slab of stone, but should have a heartbeat," Levitch says while giving a lower Manhattan tour in Richard Linklater's documentary Live from Shiva's Dance Floor. And that isn't the end of it. The heart that is beating should be a buffalo heart, Levitch says, hugging the line between philosopher and crackpot, "the lost sages of North America brought back to the existential front-and-center of America."

The movie is one of nine about New York City after September 11 playing at the second annual Tribeca Film Festival this week. The festival, which Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal started as a way to boost a neighborhood damaged by 9/11, has more movies and bigger sponsors this year. "The festival will crank up the feel-good early 1960s-style frippery, and steer clear of the Sundance-style wheeling and dealing. There will be fewer Sept. 11 memorials, less Marty Scorsese, but more Al Pacino," the New York Observer wrote last week. But there are still plenty of September 11 memorials, even though, like Live from Shiva's Dance Floor, they are far from straight-forward documentaries about the disaster.

The documentary Ashtanga, N.Y. shows aging yoga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois' visit to New York City in September 2001. Jois helps New Yorkers -- including Gwenyth Paltrow and Mike D from the Beastie Boys -- cope with 9/11 in his Soho studio.

In the feature Ash Tuesday, Janeane Garofalo and Giancarlo Esposito play lower Manhattan residents dealing with September 11. The movie shows how humor and wit can be responses to tragedy, and is billed as a comedy-drama. "It was important to me that we complete principle photography prior to the first anniversary of September 11. I wanted all of us, cast and crew, to make the film with a fresh wound, and without the benefit of perspective," filmmaker Jim Hershleder said in a director's statement.

In Evan Oppenheimer's movie Justice, E.R.'s Erik Palladino plays an artist who creates a comic book hero to help him get over his grief after September 11.

A schedule of films -- features, documentaries and shorts -- about rebuilding New York (for a full festival schedule, go to the film festival website):

Feature Films
Ash Tuesday
Dir by Jim Hershleder
Janeane Garofalo and Giancarlo Esposito play lower Manhattan residents in the aftermath of 9/11.

Friday, May 9, 6:00 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Saturday, May 10, 6:30 p.m.
The Screening Room, 54 Varick Street

Sunday, May 11, 3:30 p.m.
The Screening Room, 54 Varick Street

Dir by Evan Oppenheimer
An artist creates a comic-book superhero to help him cope with September 11.

Thursday, May 8, 6:45 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Friday, May 9, 10:15 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Feature Documentaries
Ashtanga, NY Dir by Caroline Laskow, Mary Wigmore
Aging yoga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois visits New York City in September 2001.

Wednesday, May 7, 3:15 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Friday, May 9, 6:30 p.m.
The Screening Room, 54 Varick Street

Sunday, May 11, 10:00 a.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Koenig's Sphere
Dir by Percy Adler
The German artist visits his damaged sculpture at Ground Zero, five weeks after 9/11.

Thursday, May 8, 8:00 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave..

Friday, May 9, noon
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Saturday, May 10, 6:30 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Dir by Aileen Ghee
Interviews with many of the photographers who contributed to the Here is New York exhibit of September 11 photographs.

Thursday, May 8, 8:00 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Friday, May 9, noon
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Saturday, May 10, 6:30 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave..

From the Ashes - Epilogue
Dir by Deborah Shaffer, Michael Berz
A revisit of the artists originally profiled in From The Ashes - 10 Artists.

Wednesday, May 7, 3:15 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave..

Friday, May 9, 6:30 p.m.
The Screening Room, 54 Varick Street

Sunday, May 11, 10:00 a.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Live from Shiva's Dance Floor
Dir by Richard Linklater
Philosopher tour guide Timothy Speed Levitch gives a tour of lower Manhattan.

Thursday, May 8, 12:30 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Friday, May 9, 3:00 p.m.
The Screening Room, 54 Varick Street

New Scenes from America
Dir by Jorgen Leth
Shot in New York, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and California in September 2001.

Wednesday, May 7, 8:30 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Saturday, May 10, 10:30 a.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Souvenir Views
Dir by Begonya Plaza
A Spanish tourist visits New York during the September 11 attacks.

Friday, May 9, 9:30 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Sunday, May 11, 3:00 p.m.
United Artists Battery Park Theatres,102 North End Ave.

Imagining Downtown Transportation

At last week's Imagine New York workshop about lower Manhattan transportation projects, over 100 people debated downtown's transportation future. In small groups, they examined how well state and city plans stack up with their own transportation priorities.

Before the workshops began, transportation experts outlined the different plans for lower Manhattan, including the World Trade Center Transportation Hub at Ground Zero, a new Fulton Street Transit Center, a new South Ferry Subway Station, new connections to John F. Kennedy Airport and making a section of West Street an underground tunnel in order to build a park on top of it.

In group discussions, many said they were relieved that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to untangle the confusing connections between the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, M and Z trains in a new Fulton Street Transit Center at Broadway.

Some of the other planned projects, however, were not so widely embraced. One group gave all of the different proposals a ranking from 1 to 5 and gave the plan to put a bus garage underneath the World Trade Center memorial site, which many victim's families find offensive, a score of -10.

In another group, Midtown resident Stephen Wilder took a look at the price estimates for bringing part of West Street underground, a project that Governor George Pataki is supporting, and said that a $900 million price tag is far too hefty. Spending that much on a short stretch of road is "wasteful," he said.

Jordan Gruzen, an architect whose office was destroyed on 9/11, quickly spoke up in defense of a short West Street tunnel. "It is a key element so that the entire World Trade Center rebuilding is finished," he said. "If you leave the traffic, the cars going by quickly, the noise they generate effects the memorial space. If we don't build this, it is something we'll look back twenty, thirty years from now and say, we missed our chance."

"I'm of the absolute opposite opinion," said Roland Gebhardt, from Rebuild Downtown Our Town. "Yes, we have to deal with the traffic in that area. But with a tunnel or underpass we would create two new ramps in areas that each will run over two blocks. Those ramps are a blight for the neighborhood. They are very difficult to design to make humane. They block people from crossing the street," he said. Gebhardt added that repaving West Street with certain materials could make traffic less noisy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians have said that providing a one-seat ride from lower Manhattan to John F. Kennedy Airport is an essential transportation plan. But Katie Taylor from the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, said she doesn't see why a one-seat ride has become a must-do project. "Why are we prioritizing the airports, and the visitors more than we are residents? These are hard choices about money, you know, all of these things. In the end, we have to choose," she said.

"This plan doesn't even really serve the tourists, because it is a one-seat ride to lower Manhattan, where there frankly are very little hotels. The reality is, visitors budget for the maximum ease, which for them is a car. It will always be a car, I think for a very long time. It would take one incredible magical ride to take them absolutely everywhere they want to go to make them not get into a car. This just isn't a city that facilitates it."

"But Katie, what do we want the city to be like?" Gebhardt broke in. "Now we have an opportunity to change it. It is about what we want to be. Visitors bring in revenue. They are intimidated. If they can do it with a one-seat ride, they will do it."

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: Will Urban Renewal Thinking Prevail in Rebuilding Lower Manhattan?

The Corbin Building

With all the enormous public attention on rebuilding lower Manhattan, it seems inconceivable to me that anything could be missing from the debate. But something important has been overlooked thus far. The words "historic preservation" have not passed the lips of those planning the project. It is as if it was the 1960's again and the raze-and-build-anew urban renewal orthodoxy prevailed unchallenged. It is, as Yogi Berra said, "Deja vu all over again."

A case in point is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's $750 million proposal for the new Fulton Transit Center on Broadway between Fulton and John Streets. The authority's design concept envisions clearing the site of all structures, even though the improved station would be entirely below grade.

What alarms preservationists most about this proposal is that one of the historic buildings slated for demolition by the MTA is the Corbin Building, a slender, nine-story structure built in 1889, when it loomed over its neighbors and was tall enough to be called a "skyscraper." It features a rugged masonry facade hung on an iron frame (rolled steel sections were not available until 1893), with elaborate terra-cotta details.

The Corbin Building was designed by Francis Hatch Kimball, also the architect of the office buildings flanking the Trinity Church Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, the Presbyterian Chapel in Riverdale, the Montauk Club and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and the headquarters of the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Company in western Queens. The building was named after Austin Corbin, a flamboyant 19th century financier who built railroads on Long Island, and in Reading, Pennsylvania, as well as hotels on Coney Island and his own game preserve in Newport, New Hampshire.

Instead of ending up in a landfill somewhere, the Corbin Building could be preserved and incorporated into a commercial building on this site. It would help anchor and enliven such a facility and could yield income and taxes to offset the cost of the Transit Center. Architecturally, it could be as exciting a new-old contrast as David Childs' design for the new Penn Station (now to be named after the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan) or Lord Norman Foster's tower atop the Hearst Building.

Robert Silman, the highly-regarded structural engineer who saved Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater" from falling into the water, has devised a way to underpin the Corbin Building's foundations so that it could be preserved and reused while a new and improved subway station is constructed beneath it. "From a structural engineering standpoint, it's entirely feasible, with proven technology, for the MTA to have its cake and eat it too - both preserving the Corbin Building and building the new Fulton Transit Center," says Silman.

Silman's client is the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund, a consortium of five preservation groups: the World Monuments Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Preservation League of New York State, The Municipal Art Society, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, where I work. These groups raised funds to help preserve historic sites damaged on 9/11/01. The fund is now advocating to protect and preserve historic resources downtown.

The fund has identified three "corridors of concern" in lower Manhattan, along Fulton, Greenwich, and West Streets. In each instance, worthy historical structures are threatened by redevelopment plans that range well beyond the Ground Zero damage zone. In all, there are more than 225 historic sites in lower Manhattan that have no protection whatsoever from demolition or inappropriate alteration.

Awash in competitions, intrigue, and emotion, the planners for the MTA and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation seem to lack a sense of historical continuity. Ground Zero may be a tabula rasa, a "field of dreams." But the rest of the downtown must not be treated as if it were Sixth Avenue. The planners must not be allowed to repeat the mistakes of the 1960's.

Lower Manhattan has been the epicenter of this nation's most significant events for nearly four centuries. It boasts a street pattern and an array of venerable buildings unmatched in other precincts of our city. It is still a pillar of world finance, one of the largest commercial office markets in America, and an emerging residential neighborhood of great potential. It houses such strange bedfellows as the New York Stock Exchange and the South Street Seaport with equanimity. It boasts the largest business improvement district in the five boroughs. It is truly a unique, vital - and historical - place.

None of this heritage should be erased in the process of rebuilding Lower Manhattan's damaged heart. The situation calls for delicate, skilful surgery - not wholesale, indiscriminate change. As a preservationist, I pray that our planners are up to the task. But as an advocate, I am remembering what Yogi had to say on the subject. Stay tuned! Watch this space!

Roger P. Lang is a preservation architect who serves as director of community programs and services at the New York Landmarks Conservancy. If you want to receive a free copy of the preservation fund's illustrated, annotated map of these sites, send an email to %20rogerlang@nylandmarks.org">rogerlang@nylandmarks.org.


mosquito The discovery that seven elderly New Yorkers died from the West Nile virus last summer has sparked one of the most intense public health campaigns in the city's history.

The Mayor has taken three basic steps. First, through press conferences and public service announcements, he has tried to awaken individual New Yorkers to the potential dangers of the disease, urging personal vigilance in emptying places where stagnant water can collect, wearing bug repellent, and keeping indoors during the early evenings when the mosquito tends to feed. Second, he has sought to calm public fears: We are told in virtually every public statement that no human cases of the mosquito-borne virus have occurred this year. Third, he has given broad authority to the Department of Health to spray wide swaths of the city with pesticides.

The program thus tries to find a balance between sounding the alarm and preventing panic, between giving citizens a sense of personal control over the threat and demonstrating that officials are taking public action to address the crisis.

But, as the finding of dead birds carrying the virus continues to mount, suspicions grow about the Mayor's program. Parents have protested the spraying of entire neighborhoods, worrying about the impact on children. Environmentalists worry that the pesticides will destroy useful bees, beautiful migrating Monarch butterflies, and other insects that pose little danger to humans. Lobstermen believe that the use of these pesticides has already led to the virtual destruction of the lobster industry in Long Island and Connecticut.

For the public health historian, the case offers an opportunity to reflect on the long history of New York's efforts to control epidemics.


From its beginning, New York's mayors and public health leaders have been in a constant struggle to find ways both to protect the public from epidemics and to calm public fears regarding their consequences. Whether it be the efforts to prevent smallpox in the Colonial period; cholera, diphtheria, typhus, yellow fever and malaria in the nineteenth century; or influenza and polio in the twentieth century, public health officials have been forced to confront a variety of contradictory demands that often pit them against the very public that they are supposedly serving. Traditional tools of public health, such as quarantine, isolation, or institutionalization, have often been viewed as an infringement on individual rights, while massive fumigation efforts to eradicate rodents were easily seen as disrupting or even poisoning the communities that the city was seeking to protect.

In the Colonial era, the appearance of broad epidemics was a comparatively rare event in a city that was still relatively small and healthful. But, when disease did strike, the reaction was often one of surprise and religious fervor. During a period when little was understood about the methods by which infectious disease was transmitted back and forth among mosquitoes, ticks, rodents and humans, and nothing was known of germs and viruses, disease was seen as a form of Godly retribution. Individuals, then, were urged to engage in personal soul-searching, and ask for divine forgiveness. Political leaders, in the meantime, would sometimes seek ways of isolating the morally suspicious by keeping strangers out of town and quarantining homes of the sick. While today we may view these activities as misguided, their effect was to maintain order in a city where panic was all too possible.


In 1832, as cholera swept through Europe, most New Yorkers felt safe from danger. Because predominant views of disease linked its cause to immorality and corruption, the relatively small, homogenous and apparently moral majority of Anglo-Saxon New Yorkers believed that the city's virtuous citizens were virtually immune to its horrifying impact.

So, when the poor along the city's shoreline began to sicken, vomit, and die in the city's streets, some saw it as a sign of God's displeasure with the victim. The personal failings of any one individual, not a biological process rooted in viruses or germs, were understood to determine how susceptible someone would be to God's "terrible swift sword." As the death count mounted, however, it became difficult for anyone, no matter how virtuous he saw himself, to feel safe from an epidemic where victims could appear healthy in the morning and lie dead from dehydration by that night.

Some New Yorkers began worrying that it was an indication of God's displeasure with the community as a whole, perhaps with the city's burgeoning commercial activities. New York's Board of Aldermen (forerunners to today's City Council) formed a temporary committee of ministers and businessmen who joined with three physicians to address the issue. Calming the citizens of this city of nearly 200,000 was as central to the committee's mission as actually doing anything to stop the spread of the disease.

The committee ordered clean-ups of the city's streets, quarantine of foreign vessels, and implored the city's citizens to attend a special day of prayer set aside to ask for God's forgiveness for sins that had left the people vulnerable to His wrath. The activities seemed to work: in little more than a month, the cholera epidemic left the city, and New Yorkers were grateful to their leaders.

The quarantining of ships may have had a modest impact on the spread of disease, and the cleaning of the streets certainly improved the quality of life in the city, at least temporarily. But, as public health measures it is highly unlikely that they directly affected the course of this disease that rampaged through the city in July and August of 1832. What really happened is that colder weather set in, killing the bacteria responsible for the disease.


By the late nineteenth century, as the city grew in size and as millions of non-English speaking immigrants poured into New York, the health crises became a more or less permanent fixture. Epidemics of measles, cholera, smallpox, diphtheria, yellow fever and malaria regularly swept through the city as poverty increased and as people were crowded into airless housing that lacked such rudimentary sanitary measures as plumbing. Thousands of children died in infancy every year from diphtheria, diarrhea and other childhood plagues. Death from tuberculosis claimed thousands upon thousands of city dwellers cramped in the Lower East Side's tenements. Death rates from infections in general sky rocketed.

Disease, still popularly understood as a sign of God's wrath, was linked to the growing numbers of Irish Catholics, Italians and Eastern European Jews. Nativist campaigns aimed at limiting immigration were linked to images of the immigrant as a "microbe," infecting a previously health body politic.

It is not too surprising then, that the city instituted some harsh measures: strict quarantining of arriving ships, the establishment of Ellis Island as a place for medical inspections however incomplete, and the periodic sweeps through poor neighborhoods by the police officers who had been deputized by the recently-created Department of Health as public health police. These actions were as much symbolic acts aimed at reassuring the population as they were logical, reasonable and effective public health activities. During the 1894 epidemic of typhus, for example, the city took an entire building filled with immigrants and placed them in the city's quarantine hospital on North Brother's Island in Long Island Sound which, while looking like decisive action, probably did little to stop the spread of the epidemic.


By early in the twentieth century, the development of a more sophisticated understanding of germs and their relationship to infectious disease gave new authority to the now-permanent Department of Health. Killing the bacteria was now more important than improving morals or controlling people.

Still, there were many epidemics for which the precise cause remained unknown, and for which officials were therefore still in the dark about effective treatments or even sound preventive measures. Yet, these officials were still required to give the community a sense of control and a sense of reassurance.

During the epidemic of influenza shortly following World War I, for example, literally thousands of New Yorkers died as the flu swept through neighborhood after neighborhood. Although public health officials had no understanding of how to prevent it, very public measures were taken to make sure that the city remained calm and the public felt safe. City officials encouraged individuals to use face masks, and ordered massive fumigation campaigns, sweeping into poorer neighborhoods and especially homes where victims of the disease had died. There is very little evidence that these measures were useful in stopping the epidemic. They were certainly effective, though, in maintaining a sense of control and order during a period of real crisis.


In certain ways, today's response to the West Nile virus plays out many of the themes that have marked previous public responses to epidemics in general and to those borne by the mosquito in particular. Both yellow fever and malaria, mosquito-borne diseases, have plagued the city literally from its founding in the seventeenth century. Yet, it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that Walter Reed and others specifically identified the mosquito as the culprit transmitting these diseases to human beings.

This identification has played an important role in shaping the city. Mosquito eradication campaigns and the draining of mosquito breeding grounds became a central activity for the Department of Health. Between 1905 and 1918, the "Mosquito Extermination Division" of New York's Department of Health cleared and drained 25,000 acres of land (laying 2,600 miles of drain pipes) in an effort to get rid of the pest that had just recently been identified as a health threat. Entire neighborhoods were created out what was previously swampland. Ironically, some of these newly created communities were in Queens, adjacent to Jamaica Bay, where many decades later the West Nile virus was first identified.


The arousal of public attention to a potential disaster is absolutely necessary in any public health campaign, if it is to be effective in protecting the population. Throughout its history, New York officials have sought ways to encourage people to get immunized, improve their properties by installing water and sewerage lines, and clean up public nuisances that are potential breeding grounds for disease.

But a thin line separates effective and ineffective campaigns -- separates good public health education from the needless creation of anxiety and panic. It is this line that city officials softly tread upon as they seek to engage in attempts to stem a disease that is carried by birds over political boundaries and is transmitted by mosquitoes that may escape the carpet spraying that has transformed the summers of city residents.

As we watch the unfolding of this political, social and biological drama, we must wonder how to draw the line between public health interventions that are meaningful and those that are merely symbolic. We need to find a balance between alerting New Yorkers and unduly alarming them.

David Rosner is Co-Director of the Program in the History of Public Health and Medicine at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.


Looking To History

wreck recoveryEighteen days after the attack on the World Trade Center, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appeared on Saturday Night Live. Flanked by his police and fire commissioners, and surrounded by a group of the city's rescue workers, the mayor looked into the camera and said: "On September 11th, more lives were lost than on any other single day in America's history - more than Pearl Harbor, and more than D-Day."

If it was jarring to see for the first time in the television show's 29-year history an opening "sketch" that was anything but satirical, the mayor's reference to history would not surprise anybody who had been watching his regular press conferences. In the very first week of the disaster, while he was in the midst of dealing with all the shock and panic, death and sorrow, the mayor said that he had made time to do a little reading. He read up on the history of the Battle of Britain, and the blitz of London, when a constant barrage of German bombs caused some 20,000 deaths. Londoners responded, the mayor said, by trying as much as possible to go about their normal lives. That is what, he concluded, New Yorkers should be doing now.

It was through history, then, that the mayor had found comfort and instruction. But he need not have looked solely overseas. The history of New York City itself is full of examples of crisis and recovery. It is a historical fact that after every catastrophe that New York City has faced, it has emerged - yes -- stronger and better.

By coincidence, that history is front and center starting this week in a series of events planned long ago.

The last two episodes of Ric Burns' "New York: A Documentary History", broadcast on PBS Sunday, September 30 and Monday, October 1, bring the seven-part series up to the present - or, more precisely, up to present-day New York before the events of September 11. Completed just before the attack, the producers could only add a few words acknowledging what has happened: "For nearly 400 years, the people of New York have faced adversity and prevailed. This film is dedicated to them."

The first-ever Gotham History Festival, sponsored by the year-old Gotham Center for New York History at the City University of New York's Graduate Center, runs from Friday, October 5 through Sunday, October 14. The first weekend will feature more than 100 panel discussions, on a range of topics about New York City - including the history of housing, of labor, of philanthropy and (a recent addition to the program) the history of New York City disasters. These lectures and roundtable discussions, as well as a number of exhibitions, screenings and a book fair, will be offered for free (though tickets are required) at the CUNY Graduate Center, which occupies the old B.Altman's Department Store on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. For the remainder of the festival, more than 100 New York City institutions, from museums to schools to neighborhood groups, will offer exhibitions, film screenings, walking tours, performances, lectures and various other history lessons, in locations throughout all five boroughs.

"At first I thought that the documentary and the history festival were poorly timed," says Kenneth Jackson, the president of the New-York Historical Society and a leading participant in both. "But now I think they are wonderfully timed. History can help us to get our bearings. What we learn from history is that things are bearable, that human beings are resilient and cities are resilient." As bad as the terrorist attack was - and Professor Jackson considers it probably "the worst single event in both New York and American history" - "humanity has experienced a lot worse than this."

Mike Wallace agrees. "People are saying that September 11th marks the end of an era, that everything has changed. I don't buy it," says Professor Wallace, who is the director of the Gotham Center and co-author of Gotham: A History Of New York City, the first volume of which won the Pulitzer Prize. "This is a 400-year-old city of eight million strong, and it is not going to be knocked off course by this one event.

"The city has withstood attacks, both external and internal, and disasters both natural and manmade. I wouldn't say this is the worst. Of course, it's a different world now, and any comparisons are suspect. But barring future events - if this remains a single event and we wind up pulling out of a recession - this is nothing, for example, like the full-scale invasion of the city."


In what was then the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare, the British successfully invaded New York City in 1776. Four days after the occupation began, a fire started downtown (perhaps set by someone loyal to the American cause) that spread unchecked until it had consumed almost a third of the city, including the tallest structure of the time, Trinity Church. The crashing of the houses, the roaring of the flames and the shrieks of the men and women who died "formed a scene of horror beyond description," according to a newspaper account at the time. Another fire two years later destroyed much of the rest. By the time the British ended their occupation seven years later, New York lay in ruins, physically, economically, even demographically; its population had long since fled. "You don't get more devastated than that," Wallace observes. Yet, after the revolution, New York, though having suffered more than any other American city, not only recovered and rebuilt, it became within decades the most important port city in the hemisphere, and not long afterwards the wealthiest in the world.


The first serious cholera epidemic in New York City killed 3,513 people over a period of six weeks in 1832, which, as a proportion of today's population, would be equivalent to more than 140,000 New Yorkers. Half the entire population fled the city in fear of being infected.

Just three years later, a fire that lasted just two days destroyed 675 buildings including the Merchants' Exchange. This was virtually all of downtown Manhattan, at least a quarter of the entire city at the time. "You could live in New York City now - heck you could live in Manhattan -- and not notice what happened to the World Trade Center," observes Professor Jackson. "You could not have lived in New York City in 1835 and not known there were fires." The insurance claims were so huge that it drove 23 of the city's 26 fire insurance companies into bankruptcy.

Just two weeks after the fire, the city's leading private citizens and public officials met to map out the course of recovery. Though the federal government turned down their appeal for aid, Albany came thorough, allowing the city to sell bonds to finance the reconstruction. Just five months after the fire, a much bigger, better Merchants' Exchange was under construction, made of granite. Within a year the entire area had been completely rebuilt -- the city having entered a period of feverish building that never really ended - the blocks around Wall Street transformed into a financial district that rivaled those in Europe.

While, as public health historian David Rosner has explained previously in Gotham Gazette, it took many decades before the city began responding adequately to epidemics, the two calamities of fire and pestilence together did lead to the development of the Croton Aqueduct, the city's first reliable supply of water, establishing what is frequently called the best water supply system in the nation.


Over a period of some four days in July, 1863, a mob of some 15,000 men, mostly Irish immigrant laborers angered by the first military draft and by years of discrimination, engaged in what is still called the bloodiest urban riot in American history. The crowd at first turned its wrath on the draft offices themselves and on soldiers, then the rich, but their greatest wrath was directed towards African Americans, whom they blamed for the war and thus the draft. The Colored Orphan Asylum, home to some 200 children, was burned down. Black men were dragged from their homes, tortured and lynched. By the time federal troops (themselves mostly local Irish-Americans) occupied the city and restored order, hundreds of buildings had been destroyed, millions of dollars in property had been lost, thousands of African American families had been made homeless, and at least 119 people had been killed.

In some ways, it took decades for the city to recover from this mindless carnage. But it also resulted in a series of reforms aimed at improving the lot of the poor, including laws setting minimum standards for housing and the establishment of a board of health. It also led to the creation of the first modern, professional police department.


The General Slocum, a wooden excursion boat with three passenger decks named after a general of the Civil War, left a pier on the Lower East Side headed up the East River for Long Island on a June day in 1904. On board were 1,331 members of the St. Mark's German Lutheran Church, on their way to their annual picnic. Some 15 minutes after the ship left port, the ship caught fire. The ship's captain did not notice the fire until the ship had entered Hell Gate, and could not maneuver in the narrow and treacherous waters. The fire hoses and life jackets and lifeboats, old and rotted, proved useless, and the heat too intense for other ships to help. Fifteen minutes later, the fire had caused the death of at least 1,021 women and children, the worst single disaster in the history of New York City - until September 11, 2001. The disaster so traumatized the city's German immigrant population that they left their old neighborhood of the Lower East Side in droves, moving en masse uptown to Yorkville.


In a ten-story building a block from Washington Square Park, hundreds of seamstresses were at work for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, which occupied the top three floors, when a fire began on the eighth floor shortly after 4:30 p.m. on March 25,1911. It spread rapidly, fed by the fabric littering the floor. The owners of the company had locked the doors so their employees would not be tempted to take breaks. So some of the people who were trapped rushed to the fire escape. But the fire escape was shoddy and soon collapsed. Many of those who remained, their clothing on fire, jumped from the open windows of the ninth floor. In less than15 minutes, 146 women, mostly teenagers, had died. Reaction was swift and furious, resulting in the enactment of fire safety regulations, laws mandating improved working conditions, and a huge boost to the labor movement.

New York City is full of far more than just these six crises. There were race riots, for example, in 1935, 1943, and 1964, and these led to wake-up calls that spurred the city to address some of its racial inequities. There were serious financial troubles, such as the various "panics" of the nineteenth century, the Great Depression of the 1930's and the fiscal crisis of the 1970's. There were events that have some startling parallels to the current catastrophe: A terrorist bombing, on September 16, 1920, of the House of Morgan on Wall Street, killed 38 people and injured 300; though anarchists were suspected, no perpetrators were ever found. On the foggy morning of Staruday, July 28, 1945, a B-25 bomber that lost its bearings crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, killing 14 people and injuring dozens more. Amazingly, the skyscraper itself suffered no structural damage despite the gaping hole, and it was completely repaired within a year. Many of these tragic events are virtually lost to history. "We've forgotten the General Slocum," Professor Jackson says. "It doesn't even register." The world is unlikely to forget the terrorist attacks of September 11,2001, if for no other reason than that, he says, "this is going to be the most documented tragedy in the history of the human race."

But, says Professor Wallace, this does not mean that it is in any objective way more devastating than the previous tragedies. "It depends on what happens next -- it could scatter the financial district, for example - but this will probably have less long-term impact on the city than some of the other events have had."

And, as with the other events, both historians believe, the city will do better than just survive it.

"The city won't come back better and stronger in a few days, or even a few months, or maybe even a few years," Kenneth Jackson says. "But it will recover. It always has."


Commemorating the Second Anniversary of 9/11

City officials have announced their plans for the second anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, including bringing back the "Tribute in Light," the twin beams that marked the forms of the towers in the sky in March 2002.

In a four-hour ceremony confined to Ground Zero, the names of the 2800 attack victims will be read aloud by 200 children of World Trade Center victims, standing and reading in pairs. The bells of the city's houses of worship will toll, and four moments of silence will be honored -- each marking a critical event of the morning of September 11.

A schedule of the commemoration program:

7:00 AM  
Guests may begin to gather at the World Trade Center site. The city has said that priority will be given to victims' family members, but that the public may attend if space allows.

8:30 AM  
The program will begin with a citywide moment of silence.

8:46 AM  
There will be a moment of silence to observe the time that the first plane struck the North Tower, and houses of worship throughout the city will toll their bells. Then, children of September 11 victims will begin reading the names of those killed. While the names are being read, family members will be able to walk down the ramp to the lowest level of the World Trade Center site to lay flowers.

9:03 AM  
There will be a moment of silence to observe the time that the second plane struck the South Tower. Reading of names will then continue, and music will resume.

9:59 AM  
At this time, marking the fall of the South Tower, there will be another moment of silence. The reading of names will then begin again.

10:29 AM
The ceremony's final moment of silence will mark the time that the North Tower fell. Then, the reading of names will continue until they conclude.

12:00 PM
To close the ceremony, two trumpeters (one from the fire department band, the other from the police department) will perform "Taps."

The two beams of the "Tribute of Light" will shine for one night.

Monica's Mission: Five Ideas for the Memorial

I founded September's Mission less than a month after the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001. Our mission is to support the development of a memorial park on the former World Trade Center site, a park that ties into the overall redevelopment of lower Manhattan.

Like many people, I long for the day when I can point to a drawing and say, "that's it." But to get to that point, and to get there faster, we have to define what this memorial is going to say, who it will speak for, and who it will address. We have to provide for more adequate public outreach, really listen. The five following concepts should guide the process: design excellence; holistic planning; the need for adequate green space; transportation alternatives; and last but not least, the importance of sunshine and openness in every facet of the process.

First and foremost is the concept of design excellence. Nothing less than an international design competition will do justice to what is now or may very well become the most important design commission of the 21st century. The decisions that we make for our memorial-and for the entire trade center site-must withstand the test of time. What we do must be relevant today, tomorrow, 20, 50 and 100 years from now. We owe that to all the souls that were lost, the living and the generations that follow.

The U.S. General Services Administration and the National Capitol Planning Commission, which oversees all memorial development projects in our nation's capital, provide exemplary models for international design competitions that New York would do well to follow. New federal courthouses throughout the country, the Vietnam veterans' memorial and many other timeless landmarks were conceived through this process. It isn't necessary to reinvent the wheel. If we seek the best ideas from around the world through an open, international design competition, I am confident that our memorial can meet and exceed the world's expectations.

The second concept I would like to address is the need for holistic planning. What I mean by that-and what few are grasping-is that the memorial and any other development on the site are intrinsically linked. No matter what we put on the site, we cannot and should not ever erase the enormity of what happened on Sept. 11. The final resting place of our lost souls is not confined to the footprints of the towers. We need to find ways-such as incorporating green space and pedestrian pathways throughout the entire site-to serve the necessary, utilitarian purposes for workers, visitors and residents while also memorializing the site. Design of all structures that are not directly associated with the memorial can and should be respectful. To succeed in creating the most beautiful memorial in the world, the memorial needs good neighbors, and should also be a friend to its neighbors.

The third concept is the critical need for generous green space and adequate landscape buffers between the memorial area of the site and areas that will have other uses. If we don't want lines of people rounding the blocks waiting to see the memorial, we need pedestrian spaces and green spaces to adequately service the memorial. More importantly, these spaces can and should also be an amenity for residents and workers in directly adjacent areas. Lower Manhattan does not have enough green space and recreational space to serve the community. We need places to sit under a tree and read a book, places where children can play, places where couples can stroll, and places where our workers can take a break. If we want to create a living, thriving 24/7 community, we need more green space.

The fourth concept is transportation. Some of the current proposals on the table call for re-extending all or part of the original street grid throughout the site. While I recognize the benefits this provides from a pure urban planning standpoint, extending the street grids above ground is entirely insensitive. They will closely abut the footprint areas of the towers and make it virtually impossible for those who come, especially the families, to pay respects without great distraction. I would ask that our planners and politicians carefully consider an alternative. If it is vital to re-extend streets, depress them below ground through tunnels and preserve the above ground area for pedestrians. We must provide a peaceful place to pay respects. If the streets are extended above ground through the site that will not be possible.

The final concept is sunshine. I believe that sunshine has powerful healing properties and that an open, participatory process is vital to creating a memorial and proper use of the site. The site does not belong to the Port Authority. The site belongs to the citizens of New York and New Jersey that the Port Authority serves. And in a real sense, it also belongs to every taxpayer footing the bill for recovery. We owe it to each and every person in this country to do the right thing. A transparent process, with clear accountability, is critical to creating a fitting memorial that will stand the test of time and express the values we hold dear. We need more sunshine to erase the clouds of Sept. 11.

I lost my husband Michael on Sept. 11. No memorial, no matter how beautiful, will ever heal the hurt I carry in my heart for the absolute terror, pain and suffering that Michael and almost 3,000 others experienced that day when they needlessly lost their lives. No memorial will ever stop the nightmares our survivors, rescue and recovery workers live each day, as they carry the burden of what can only be horrific memories. But we have to take on this extraordinary responsibility, and create the most beautiful memorial the world has ever seen.

Mark Twain once said, "I am all for progress, it is change I object to." In many ways, this sums up the debate going on over the trade center site. Progress is business as usual. Sept. 11 changed that forever. We must now ask ourselves: what kind of life-changing and reaffirming legacy can we leave for the generations that follow? I have every confidence that we will be able to make the right choices.

The Ground Zero Planner: Preliminary Results

The results of the Ground Zero Planner are not in, at least not completely. But out of the 237 submissions so far from our readers, there are two results that stand out:

  • Slightly more than half want to see the twin towers rebuilt.
  • A fifth of our would-be planners call for making the entire 16-acre site a memorial.

The Ground Zero Planner is an interactive tool that allows visitors to design what they would like to see on the World Trade Center site, by dragging icons to a virtual map of Ground Zero. There are a dozen different possibilities users of the Ground Zero Planner can choose, ranging from "Office Space" to "Transportation" to "Memorial." The game is still open to play (your computer needs to be equipped with the latest version of Flash). Click here to try it out.

Throughout the rebuilding process, public officials have been hesitant to say whether or not the twin towers will be rebuilt. Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, has said that there is "zero chance" that the towers will be rebuilt. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation avoids addressing the issue directly, saying only that it is committed to adding "a skyline element" to its plans. Yet the players of the Ground Zero Planner have been far clearer in what they want.

Fifty-three percent of those who have contributed their visions to Gotham Gazette through the Ground Zero Planner have included "New Towers" as part of their plans. Among all the entries so far, 15 percent locate the towers on the footprints (the two rectangles where the towers stood), suggesting that there is still a significant number of people who desire to have the towers rebuilt exactly as they were before September 11.

This puts them in direct conflict with the twenty percent of the Ground Zero Planner players that placed the "16-Acre Memorial" icon on their virtual map of Ground Zero.

Even victims' families have reconsidered their intentions to keep the whole site as a memorial. But the 20 percent who selected an all-memorial site is a figure that is consistent with recent polls by CBS and the New York Times and Quinnipiac University (there, 25 percent wanting to make the whole site a memorial). Oddly though, many of the participants who advocated for this approach also included other elements on their maps besides the 16-acre memorial. This is odd because no construction would be possible if the whole site were left as a memorial. These results suggest that those who insist on making the entire site a memorial have not thought out what that means - nothing else could go on the site.

Other results from the Ground Zero Planner indicate that there is support for having a memorial surrounded by other non-commercial elements. A resounding 92 percent of the entries submitted include some kind of memorial on the site. 66 percent wanted to see park space, and 51 percent were interested in seeing a cultural center developed on the site. Given the negative reaction to the abundance of office space that was featured in the six plans recently offered by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, it might be surprising that 48 percent of the Ground Zero planners have included office space of some kind. It is unclear whether or not their vision of office space is as ambitious as that of Larry Silverstein, the developer who leases the property from the Port Authority and is pushing for rebuilding 11 million square feet of office space.

The results from the Ground Zero Planner are not scientific - they represent the views of readers on our site who used it to submit ideas. We are still accepting ideas through the Ground Zero Planner.

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