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Issue of the Week
 
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WHO IS IN CHARGE OF REBUILDING?

At the end of November 2001, Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani established the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as the primary governing body to oversee the rebuilding efforts. The former mayor appointed four of the members, and the governor named seven, including John Whitehead, an investment banker and deputy of state, who he made head of the corporation. It was recently announced that Mayor Bloomberg will appoint three more people, bringing the total number of corporation members to 14.

Modeled after the city and state partnerships that oversaw the redevelopment of Times Square, the development corporation is charged with overseeing all aspects of rebuilding south of Houston Street. It will also serve as primary vehicle for spending the federal aid and has legal power to condemn property and override the city's zoning regulations.

Shortly after being formed, the corporation came under criticism for being heavy with business and Wall Street representatives, lacking racial and ethnic diversity, and including only one member who actually lives in lower Manhattan. In response, the development corporation created seven advisory councils to hear concerns from victims families, residents, small-business owners, transportation experts, developers, and financial firms.

State and local elected officials also complained that they were left out of the process. Members of the New York State Senate, miffed over being excluded, created their own oversight panel. City Councilmember James Sanders Jr., chairman of the City Council Committee on Economic Development, complained that "the current elected leadership of New York City had no role in appointing members to the one body charged with developing lower Manhattan."

By the first week of January, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation had $2 billion in federal funds earmarked for its efforts, but no specific plan on how to use it. Corporation member Lou Tomson said the board would come up with a set of goals by late May, and its newly hired planner, Alexander Garvin, a former city planning commissioner and teacher at Yale University, will then "translate those goals into various plans."

There are, however, many unanswered questions about the power of the corporation. The group also has no jurisdiction over the Port Authority. And Larry Silverstein, who holds the lease on the site, has said he wants to begin rebuilding 7 World Trade Center this summer. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki have agreed that construction should not begin until an overall development plan is agreed upon.

WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN THE REBUILDING EFFORTS?

As the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation tries to figure out how it will rebuild downtown, a number of organization have formed throughout the city to give voice to different groups of people. Among the largest is the Civic Alliance, a broad umbrella group of planning, community and environmental groups with the aim of developing strategies for rebuilding downtown. R.DOT, or Rebuild Downtown Our Town, is another coalition made up of residents and businesses based downtown. These coalitions, along with New York New Visions and New York City Partnership, share a general consensus view of what should be built, proposing a mix of residential housing, retail and office space, and a memorial.

Despite these groups' efforts, one person may be more influential than all of them put together: Larry Silverstein. He holds the lease on the World Trade Center, and six months after September 11, it is still unclear whether or not anyone can prevent him from building whatever he wishes on the site.

Probably the most vocal and public group in the rebuilding process are the relatives of those killed on September 11. Organizations representing these families, including Give Your Voice and September Mission, have become a potent political force as they push to make their own plans part of the rebuilding dialogue. Like Larry Silverstein, these groups often do not endorse the proposals advanced by the civic coalitions. Many of the family groups hope to make the entire 16-acre site a memorial.

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation, the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation’s public education programs.  Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.