Rebuilding Roundup Archive: January 2004

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Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, January 30

The federal commission investigating the 9/11 attacks held hearings and released preliminary reports this week. While many senior officials have asserted that the hijackers were law-abiders who resided in the country legally and did little to attract attention, one report this week showed that as many as eight of the men used passports that "showed evidence of fraudulent manipulation." Another report gave the most comprehensive picture of what went on during the hijacking of the planes, and for the first time the commission played publicly taped portions of mid-air phone calls from plane that crashed into the North Tower.

The commission has asked for two more months to prepare its final report, which it is currently required to finish by May 27. This poses an awkward political situation for President George Bush, who does not want to appear to be impeding the commission's work, but also would rather avoid the release of a potentially damaging report during a crucial moment in campaign for reelection. One possible out for the administration would be to back a proposal by Senator John McCain to give the commission until January 2005 to complete its report, thus delaying the issue until after the election.

The president will ask for more money for homeland security when he presents the federal budget this Monday, and New York lawmakers from both parties hope to convince Congress to give New York a larger portion. Early in 2003, a federal fund was established to provide money for security to high-risk urban areas. Originally, only seven cities were eligible, but that number has now risen to more than 50. This has resulted in New York's share dropping from $125 million in May to $47 million in November, even as total money available through the fund rose considerably.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, January 23

A design for the permanent PATH station at Ground Zero was made public yesterday in a ceremony at the Winter Garden. The station, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is an oval-shaped structure of glass and steel with two "wings" rising from its spine. The retractable glass roof of the building allows daylight to reach the train tracks 60 feet below street level. The transit station is the last of the three major pieces of architecture for Ground Zero to be made public. Unlike the Freedom Tower or the memorial it has met with seemingly universal praise.

The Port Authority, the public agency in charge of the station, expects it to be in use by 2006. When it is completed in 2009, the station, which will cost $2 billion to build, will connect to the Fulton Street subway station, which is also renovated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. In all, Calatrava's station will connect to 14 subway lines, in addition to airtrain and ferry service. It will also provide a pedestrian connection to the World Financial Center.

While the Port Authority took a big step on its Ground Zero project, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's board approved the draft environmental impact statement for its work on the site. This statement, required by state and federal agencies financing the project, said that heavy traffic and noise will be a presence in Lower Manhattan for at least a decade as Ground Zero is built up. A draft of the 2,000 page document is available at Humanities and Social Sciences Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and at the offices of Community Boards 1, 2 and 3 in Lower Manhattan. It is also posted on the organization's web site.

Three more names were removed from the death count for 9/11, bringing the total down to 2,749. Officials said that this may be the final change to the list of those killed, which has been revised several times.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, January 16

A revised version of Reflecting Absence, the memorial for Ground Zero, was presented to the public this Wednesday. While the central feature of the plan, two sunken pools on the footprints of the Twin Towers, was left essentially intact, much else had changed. The austere plaza was turned into a tree-lined park, underground chambers were created beneath the pools to allow access to the bedrock level of the footprints, and the slurry wall, part of the 'bathtub' foundation of the original towers, was made accessible. An underground area to display artifacts from the 9/11 attacks was also added.

The tone of the public's discussion of the memorial changed after the revised plan was made public. While the original plan drew harsh criticism from across the board, the revisions were generally seen as a big step in the right direction, even if several controversies still simmer.

Some have now begun to discuss what comes next -- one development official said that the memorial will cost over $350 million. Many who have invested themselves in the memorial design process are also shifting focus; several days before the design was released, a group of victims' family members announced the creation of a foundation to raise money for cultural events surrounding the memorial.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, January 9

Reflecting Absence, a scheme envisioning two sunken pools on the footprints of the Twin Towers, was chosen this week as the memorial for Ground Zero. Fans of the design have called it clear, simple, and respectful, while its critics have described it as bleak, brutal, and bland. The plan is being revised, and a new version will be presented to the public next week.

In its current form, Reflecting Absence changes the existing site plan more than any of the other finalist designs did, by bringing the memorial site to ground level and eliminating cultural buildings present in Daniel Libeskind's site plan. But modifications may change the design significantly. Access to a portion of the bedrock of the footprints and to the slurry wall, plantings supplementing the design.s stark plaza, and changes to the wall-like building on the west side of the site are reportedly being incorporated into the plan.

In his state of the state address, Governor George Pataki announced that another design for Ground Zero will be made public on January 22 -- the design for a new transportation hub. Pataki added that four proposals for a rail link between JFK airport and Lower Manhattan are also to be made public in January. The next day, in his state of the city address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg barely mentioned the rebuilding effort, saying only that "every element" of the process was moving forward.


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