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Issue of the Week
 
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CHARITY

Deciding how to distribute millions of dollars in charity to the families of September 11th victims has been the most delicate debate of the attack's aftermath.

Former Mayor Giuliani settled one of the thornier issues when he agreed to distribute the remaining $100 million of his private Twin Towers Fund within 60 days of the transfer of funds from the public charity of the same name. The money will go to the families of the 430 rescue workers killed on September 11th. While the fund has already distributed $48 million, Giuliani had planned on waiting, perhaps up to several years, so he could distribute the money in the most equitable manner possible. He told the Times this would fulfill his "sacred obligation" to the victims' families. Giuliani decided speed trumped absolute fairness under the threat of a lawsuit from "The Widows" political lobby.

As of March 6, the September 11th Fund created by the United Way and the New York Community Trust, the largest of the charities, said it had distributed $205 million. The fund says it will set aside $250 million for future needs arising from the terrorist attacks, such as counseling, job training, health care and other programs for people affected by the attacks.

The Red Cross has extended a year of financial aid to the families of September 11 victims. The Red Cross, along with Safe Horizons and the Salvation Army, is also assisting those who worked below Canal Street and lost their jobs in the wake of the attacks. March 8 was the last day applications were accepted by all three organizations.

VIEW AND VIEWERS AT GROUND ZERO

When Michael McMahon, the manager at the Marriott Financial Center Hotel, finally gained access to the hotel a week after September 11, he said the scene looked like a "nuclear holocaust." Ninety rooms were damaged and the hotel was full of dust and debris. The gift shop had been looted. And for a few weeks, the American Red Cross used it as a place for rescue workers to eat and sleep.

Today, the lobby is pristine, the new hotel bar called 85 West Street has undergone a $1 million renovation, and given the circumstances, business is relatively good - down just 20 percent from the same time last year.

"We were holding our breath for a while wondering if our business customers would really return," said McMahon. Since the hotel reopened on January 7, they have. The majority of the 470 available rooms are filled with business travelers working on Wall Street or in midtown. As more companies return to the area, McMahon hopes business will get even better.

The Marriott also serves people who have come as a result of the tragedy. Roughly 15 percent of the guests are insurance adjusters, employees of government agencies, or workers somehow involved in the clean-up efforts. And many of the guests, especially on the weekend, are tourists who include as part of their sightseeing a trip to see Ground Zero.

The crowds created such congestion that the city built a viewing platform on Fulton Street, then began issuing tickets, limiting each visitor to 15 minutes. Before September 11, an estimated 200,000 people passed through the World Trade Center every day, and 26,000 people daily visited the observation deck. Whatever is eventually built at the World Trade Center site, it will likely have to accommodate many more.

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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.