Rebuilding Roundup Archive: June 2004

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Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, June 25

Mayor Michael Bloomberg displayed his unhappiness with the federal government's reluctance to give more homeland security funding to New York this Monday. The mayor refused to let Ohio Representative Bob Ney inside his house for a fundraiser, after Ney helped vote down a bill that would have shifted almost $450 million in security funds to high-risk cities. The fundraiser was then cancelled. Bloomberg says he's battling pork-barrel politics; Ney accused him of playing "silly press games." Yesterday, Bloomberg continued to pressure his fellow Republicans, saying that he would consider contributing money to Democrats who he sees helping the city secure the funds.

Last Friday, the National Institute for Standards and Technology reported that the engineers who built the Twin Towers may have underestimated the wind forces on the towers, thus making them less able to handle the 9/11 attacks. Extra fireproofing in the north tower during a 1990s upgrade may explain why it took twice as long to collapse as the South Tower, the federal agency also found. Its report estimated that between 16,200 and 18,600 people were in the Twin Towers when they were attacked on 9/11, the first time that such a number has been offiically generated. The investigation was initiated to determine why the buildings collapsed, and to use the lessons of 9/11 to improve building codes. A final report is due in December.

Almost three years after 9/11, 179 new firefighters a month are seeking help from the fire department's counseling services unit for trauma related to the attack. Psychoanalysts say that unrelated events can continue to set off post traumatic shock syndrome for years.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, June 18

The country's air defense plans were insufficient to cope with the speed and scale of the 9/11 hijackings, the federal commission investigating the attacks said in a two-day hearing this week. The commission concluded that, like other responders to the attacks, the country's air defense agency was marred by bad communications and unprepared for such an unprecedented event. The commission also examined the 9/11 plot itself, finding no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. This hearing was the last for the commission; it will release a final report at the end of next month.

The federal Victims Compensation Fund also finished its work this week. The fund took 997 days to give $6.9 billion to people who either lost family members or were injured themselves on 9/11. Almost everyone who was eligible for compensation because of a death applied for the fund, receiving an average of $2.1 million. For those who were injured, compensation ranged from $500 to $8.7 million.

A major reason the fund was established was to avoid lawsuits; those who took money from the fund gave up their right to sue. But 108 federal lawsuits, and an unknown number of personal injury claims, have been filed by people who were injured in the attacks but were not eligible for the fund. Many have respiratory problems that did not emerge until after the deadline to file claims; those who did not see a doctor within 48 hours of the attacks were also ineligible for the fund. There are also 89 lawsuits that relatives of those who died in the attacks have filed.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, June 11

Two theater companies will fill one building in the cultural complex at Ground Zero, with two museums sharing the other, rebuilding officials announced yesterday. The Signature Theater Company, the Joyce Theater, the Drawing Center and the newly established Freedom Center were chosen from 113 applicants competing for space in what is being described as downtown's Lincoln Center. It came as a surprise to many that the New York City Opera was not among the winners. Still to be decided is how fundraising responsibilities for the complex will be split between the institutions themselves and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation broke ground this week on an project to reinvigorate the waterfront at the Battery. The development project at the Battery Bosque, being carried out along with the Parks Department, includes planting 70,000 new bulbs and 140 new trees in a 30,000-square foot area. Its $8.5 million budget also allocates funds for a merry-go-round.

Families of 9/11 victims heard recordings of telephone calls made by passengers on the hijacked planes, after protesting at the 9/11 Commission's New York hearings that the tapes had been kept from them. About 130 people attended a somber meeting in South Brunswick, New Jersey to listen to the recordings, which have not been released publicly. While those who attended said they learned more about the last moments of their loved ones' lives, they avoided giving specifics, having signed nondisclosure agreements.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, June 4

A "powerful, visible" artifact from Ground Zero should mark the entrance to the underground memorial center at the site of the attack, a panel of families of 9/11 victims, survivors of the attack, and historians said at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation board meeting on Wednesday. The panel, established by the corporation to advise on the creation of the World Trade Center Memorial Center, also recommended incorporating the individual stories of 9/11 victims, and creating exhibits about the spontaneous memorials that emerged around the city soon after the attacks. Public comments on the panel's recommendations are being accepted until July 1.

At the meeting, the corporation also unanimously approved its project plan for Ground Zero, signaling that the construction on the site can begin. The plan leaves open the possibility of restoring Dey and Cortlandt Streets, which ran through the site before the creation of the World Trade Center. It also brings to an end the environmental review process, which critics say still does not fully take into account the impact of the multiple, large-scale development projects involved in the rebuilding.

Squabbling over funds at the site also continues. Daniel Libeskind, who designed the Ground Zero master plan, is threatening to sue the site's developer, Larry Silverstein. Libeskind claims that he is not being compensated fairly for his work on the Freedom Tower; Silverstein says that Libeskind has not produced time sheets that will prove that he deserves the money he is asking for. The two sides are reportedly about $300,000 apart in what they think Libeskind's compensation should be.

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