Rebuilding Roundup Archive: April 2004

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Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, April 30

President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney met with the 9/11 Commission yesterday, in a private meeting described by both the White House and the commission as useful. The three hour session was not recorded or transcribed, and little is known about the specifics of the meeting. The president did reportedly say, however, that 2001 warnings about Al Qaeda seemed to point to an attack overseas, and not on US soil.

A jury dealt a blow to World Trade Center Developer Larry Silverstein yesterday by deciding that eight of his twelve insurance companies are not subject to pay him twice for the destruction of the Twin Towers. Silverstein believes that he should receive double payments, since 9/11 was two attacks. By disagreeing with him, the jury keeps Silverstein from collecting $1 billion, which will make it difficult for him to rebuild the entire World Trade Center site by himself. The cases of the other four companies have yet to be decided.

A congressional report found that 80 percent of the $6.3 billion in homeland security grants distributed since April 2003 are stuck in bottlenecks at the state and local levels, but added that New York has done well to distribute the funds it has received. The report also found, however, that the federal government is sending funds to communities that don't need it, affirming what local officials have been complaining about for months. A group of New York City firefighters and police officers plans to protest at the Republican National Convention to bring publicity to the issue.

The size of the World Trade Center site has been overstated since 9/11, according to a Columbia math professor. The site is said to be 16 acres; he claims that it is closer to 14.5 acres. Using this calculation, proposed development on the site is denser, and the proportion of open space smaller, than has been regularly estimated.

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Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, April 23

The Bloomberg Administration is looking for a larger role in the development of Ground Zero. In a letter released this week, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff called for a formal agreement between the Port Authority, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and the city about their roles in the development. Doctoroff also disputed that the Port Authority owned the entire World Trade Center site, until now a foregone conclusion. The Port Authority acknowledged that there are ownership "ambiguities" about certain parts of the site, and said it would continue to see the city as a partner on the project.

City officials calculate that $2.6 billion worth of federal rebuilding tax credits may never be used. The money is part of the $20 billion that the Bush administration gave New York City after 9/11. The city now wants to swap those credits for hard cash through the Senate. But because the tax credits cost the federal government very little, Congress hasn't expressed much enthusiasm so far over the plan.

Over 60 percent of firefighters who worked at Ground Zero suffer from depression, according to a recent study. 40 percent of the 2,000 firefighters surveyed sought counseling after 9/11, most through the department. The report said that stress and depression should be expected for such high-risk jobs, and that firefighters are no different from the general population in terms of alcohol abuse, despite several recent high-profile cases.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, April 16

The architectural firm Davis Brody Bond will be working with Michael Arad and Peter Walker on the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. The firm, which a decade ago designed a sweeping revision of the World Trade Center's public spaces that was never implemented, beat out some of the leading architecture firms in the world competing to be the associate architect on the memorial. Davis Brody Bond will bring as many as 30 new faces to the job. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's decision to hire the firm will also place several African-American architects to key roles for the first time in the development of Ground Zero.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation board also approved a $45 million contract for the Gilbane Building Company, who will dismantle the Deutsche Bank Building just south of Ground Zero, piece by piece. The building's demolition is included in the final environmental impact statement for Ground Zero, which the corporation released this week. The document responds to 671 comments and criticisms, gathered since a draft of the document was released earlier this year. Critiques ranged from calls for preserve the historic remains of the World Trade Center on the site, to concerns about how development will affect birds and fish.

In Washington, the 9/11 Commission conducted additional hearings looking into possible failures in the country's anti-terrorism programs in the years and months before 9/11. Controversy continued as the White House declassified an August 6 briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." Critics say this indicates a failure on the part of the Bush administration; the president claims the brief contained no new information. The commission criticized both the CIA and the FBI for pre 9/11 failures, while Attorney General John Ashcroft said that Clinton-era strategies had led to the breakdown that allowed the 9/11 hijackers to succeed.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said finger-pointing helped no one. He will testify in front of the commission at a hearing in New York in mid-May.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, April 9

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said that she was aware of Al-Qaeda's surveillance of buildings in Lower Manhattan before 9/11, but that the Bush administration would have "moved heaven and earth" to halt any attack it thought could be coming on New York. Rice was testifying in front of the 9/11 commission, after a long and politically charged debate over whether the Bush administration could keep her from doing so.

Earlier this week, the commission said that 9/11 was probably preventable. Rice disagreed, saying that there was no "silver bullet" that could have prevented the attacks. She did say that if there was a single factor that led to the failure to prevent 9/11, it was the structural problems preventing communication between federal intelligence agencies. Rice says that these problems have begun to be addressed in the two and a half years after the attack.

Continued sparring between city agencies has left New York City without a formal agreement on how to handle any future catastrophe or terrorist attack, more than two and a half years after 9/11. An agreement between the Police Department, the Fire Department, and the Office of Emergency Management on the roles each would play in such an instance is a necessary precaution in the case of another disaster, say security experts. The deadlock creates other dangers as well: the federal government has said it will withold tens of millions of dollars in homeland security funding if a coordinated plan is not in place by October.

Prompted by reports that fundraising has delayed the reopening of the Statue of Liberty, a Senate committee has requested financial records from the foundation managing the reopening. The statue has been closed since soon after 9/11 because of necessary security improvements. It will open in July, a result of the fundraising campaign launched by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. But the foundation has come under criticism recently, because it opted to launch the campaign instead of using its $30 million endowment, intended to fund maintenance and preservation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, to make the improvements.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, April 2

Citing health concerns and reluctance to work next to a huge construction site, state workers are resisting a proposed relocation to a new office near Ground Zero. Governor George Pataki proposed the move 21 months ago as a way to show confidence in the area. Similar worries continue to keep other companies away from downtown; office vacancies in the area are up from a year ago. The residential market in the area, however, is booming, and 78 percent of the 9,900 jobs that were lost downtown since 9/11 have been regained.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which has come under harsh criticism for its role in post-9/11 cleanup, held the first meeting of a panel that is re-examining the federal government's actions in that cleanup. At the meeting, which took place Wednesday, it announced a plan to retest a number of the apartments that were cleaned in 2002 and 2003.

Those who were downtown after the collapse of the Twin Towers caused an enormous dust cloud in lower Manhattan may receive access to additional services, through a new federal bill proposed by US Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Christopher Shays. The bill would provide free medical care to 9/11 rescue workers without health insurance. It would also expand an existing health monitoring program -- which currently covers on only rescue workers -- to cover downtown residents and office workers, and extend the time that the health of those exposed to dust on 9/11 is monitored.

After intense political pressure, the White House has agreed to allow Condoleezza Rice, President George Bush's National Security Advisor, to testify in front of the 9/11 Commission. The Bush administration has previously said that forcing Rice to testify would erode the President's constitutional authority. Yesterday, the administration's cooperation with the panel was questioned again, however, as Bush aides blocked the panel's access to thousands of pages of classified documents from the Clinton era.


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