Rebuilding Roundup Archive: February 2003

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Friday, February 28
The design by architect Daniel Libeskind featuring a 1,776-foot spire and an open pit where the twin towers once stood was chosen Wednesday night as the final plan for the World Trade Center site. Rebuilding officials selected the Libeskind design over the twin latticework towers by the THINK architect team. The winning plan also features a museum at the site and structures that will create memorial spaces free of shadows each September 11. The single spire will be the tallest structure in the world.

The choice was made by a committee with representatives of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the governor and the mayor. It is still unclear how the memorial will be paid for, when the buildings will be built, and whether the final towers will look like those in the design. Libeskind said that a memorial, transit station and cultural buildings could be built within four years, while Port Authority officials believe it may take closer to five or six years.

Civic groups and victims' families generally approved of the selection of Libeskind's plan, but some expressed concerns about connecting nearby neighborhoods to the site and putting underground bus parking on the site. Developer Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the site who had previously expressed opposition to the two final plans, praised Libeskind's design and said that he would pay for the construction of the 1,776-foot spire.

Friday, February 21
Next week, rebuilding officials are expected to announce a single finalist in the competition to design Ground Zero. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki - as well as other officials - reportedly favor the design by Daniel Libeskind, which exposes the foundation of the original World Trade Center, over the THINK team's latticework towers.

Both finalists have been modifying their designs, but the specific changes will not be revealed until the Port Authority and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation release the plans to the public. In an online chat on Gotham Gazette, Libeskind said he has "no intention to decrease the height of any building" in his plan. He also said that the slurry walls that keep back the Hudson River and withstood the attack will be "visible and seen." Engineers have said that exposing the walls and leaving them open to the elements may cause them to deteriorate or fall down.

Libeskind also compared his competitors' plan to "two skeletons in the sky" and said that his plan is estimated at between $200 and 320 million, the "bargain basement of all the schemes in the competition."

Federal officials said on Wednesday that as many as 90 percent of the people who applied for a federal 9/11 program to help New Yorkers clean up after the World Trade Center attacks were frauds. The grants were set up to reimburse people who needed vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, but many applicants lived miles away from Ground Zero and simply wanted free products.

Friday, February 14
Rebuilding officials have asked the two World Trade Center site finalists, Daniel Libeskind and the THINK team, to modify their designs for Ground Zero and solve engineering problems. According to officials, both designs will need to be changed so that there is room for a bus parking garage and an underground PATH station in the seven-acre hole on the west side of Ground Zero. The plans to accommodate a garage and station have upset victims' family members, who say that the area, called the "bathtub" is sacred because many of the dead were found there.

This week, the federal government approved $90 million in aid to pay for monitoring the long-term health of Ground Zero workers. The federal aid had been tied up for months in a partisan debate. "This is a tremendous victory for New York," Senator Hilary Clinton said.

Governor George Pataki took another major step towards securing federal aid on February 7, when he outlined a plan for spending up to $5 billion in federal funds on rebuilding and improving transportation in lower Manhattan. In a letter to federal officials, Pataki listed projects such as a rebuilt subway terminal at South Ferry and new above ground stations at Fulton Street and at the World Trade Center site.

Friday, February 7
In the days after rebuilding officials chose Daniel Libeskind and the THINK team as finalists in the competition to design the World Trade Center site, many have voiced skepticism that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will really be able to bring a version of either plan to Ground Zero. The agency will need to negotiate with the Port Authority, city and state officials, developers and others. However, development corporation board member Roland Betts has said that he is "determined to be fatherly" about making sure that one of the designs is built.

Before officials select one design team at the end of this month, the two finalists will work to modify their plans based on discussions with rebuilding officials and other key players, including World Trade Center lease-holder Larry Silverstein.

Last week, Silverstein wrote a letter to Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Chairman John Whitehead, saying that he didn't approve of any of the nine designs, including the two named as finalists. Silverstein said that any design with less than 10 million square feet of office space jeopardizes the amount of insurance he can collect. The developer also wrote that he wants more of a say in designing the World Trade Center site's future.

On Friday, the White House tentatively agreed to free up about $980 million in federal 9/11 aid to help the city and state close budget gaps. The Bush administration had been reluctant to loosen the restrictions on how the disaster aid is spent. However, New York City and state officials worked to convince federal officials that the economic downturn is closely related to September 11.


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