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Rebuilding NYC - Testimonies From The 2003 Public Hearings
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Gotham Gazette

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Citizens Union

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Rebuilding NYC






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Not Just One-Way Communication


Paul Epstein, Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown

All nine current plans should be set aside. Not thrown out, but set aside for future reference, until two things are done, which can be done actually in a relatively short time, and can be done in parallel, at the same time.

One, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority, the two governors, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the mayor, other responsible agencies should put forth a chart of what the decisions in rebuilding processes will be for redeveloping lower Manhattan for the next several years, and work with the civic community to design an active, collaborative set of public participation processes into those decisions all along the way. The participation processes can be very widely varying along the way, but they need to be inclusive and representative, open, and dialogic involving real discourse among people - not the very very limited one-way communication we have at these public hearings tonight - and throughout anything you have shown us since December.

Our scorecard group is developing a ratings scale of public participation, based on sound research, experiences in New York, elsewhere in the country and around the world. By the way, everything you have done since December rates pretty low on the scale that is emerging, but we know what to do, we can help you show what those processes should be.

The second thing that needs to be done can be done at the same time. The broadest possible stakeholder and public involvement must be generated to develop a widely shared vision for what we want all of lower Manhattan to become, which should include regional implications as well, because the Mayor has put forth at least a partial vision out there, and groups such as the Civic Alliance have developed principles and held planning workshops to show what possible visions can look like. The public doesn't have to start from a blank slate. A process such as a Listening to the City may help develop consensus rather quickly.

Only then can we evaluate the nine plans in the light that they can be examined. We will be able to see what parts of which plans do the most for the widely shared public vision for lower Manhattan and the region, and we, the public, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation the Port Authority and others will be able to make much wiser decisions about the trade center site.

These are at least a hundred year decisions about to be made. Maybe more. Take the extra couple of months to get them right, to make sure they are based on widely shared visions. Then continue the public participation in an active, collaborative way, in the years to come throughout the future decision-making and the rebuilding process.

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