Public Hearings for Ground Zero
Every three minutes, a new person stood up at the public hearings for the new Ground Zero plans and offered his or her opinion, though rarely about the new plans themselves. The gentleman from the Audubon Society called on the planners to design "bird-friendly buildings." Laurence Russo presented his own plan for the site. Andrew Oliff stood up to say that the only buildings he could accept were the Twin Towers, rebuilt. Sally Regenhard said that the city of New York, not the Port Authority, should have control over Ground Zero.
So it went, every three minutes for four long hours. If there was one thing that absolutely everybody agreed on it was this: these public hearings were done wrong. It was almost as if, some say, officials wanted to be seen listening to public opinion rather than actually having to take the public's opinions into account.
"Three minute sound bites do not allow for substantive input," said Ron Shiffman, director of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development. "It was just structured the wrong way."
Engaging the public
In early January, the Municipal Art Society's project Imagine New York held roundtable discussions about the new plans. 300 participants highlighted important likes and dislikes about the designs, said co-director Holly Leicht. A report summarizing the responses is available online. During the workshop, three plans emerged as favorites: those by Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster and Peterson/Littenberg.
These three plans were also ranked as favorites by people sending in comments to the development corporation's web site and in a New York Times poll. The top two plans for Gotham Gazette readers are by Foster and United Architects, with Libeskind's design and the THINK team's Sky Park plan tied for third.
Asking the same questions
Diane Horning, whose son was killed on September 11, responded to Wyatt's article at the second hearing, saying that people are bringing up the same questions because they haven't yet been addressed. "I suggest then that the LMDC answer those questions and address those problems so that we don't have to be so annoyingly repetitive," said Horning, who belongs to the group WTC Families for a Proper Burial. The group is calling for all of the unknown remains that were brought to the Fresh Kills landfill during the cleanup to be interred as part of the memorial.
While Horning called for assurances about the memorial, Hugh Hardy, from New York New Visions, a coalition of 21 architecture, planning and engineering organizations, suggested that the nine new plans be set aside until the agencies in charge of rebuilding resolve questions about a development strategy for the World Trade Center site. "The schemes represent a quandary. They are hampered without a realistic program and development strategy for the site, caused by a lack of clearly directed leadership," he said at the hearing. New York New Visions has a report evaluating all of the designs, which is available online (PDF format).
Shiffman, from the Pratt Institute, has also advocated for a new development plan. He said that the guidelines for rebuilding given to the architecture teams, which call for building most of the office and retail space that existed before the attacks, don't make sense for lower Manhattan today. "To adopt a 1970's program as the basis for rebuilding as is just as idiotic as rebuilding the towers the way they were," he said.
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Testimonies From the 2003 Public Hearing