Rebuilding Roundup Archive: March 2004

Previous Roundups


Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, March 26

The federal panel investigating the 9/11 attacks held two days of hearings this week, where its members grilled high-ranking officials from the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Both administrations, it seemed, were less aggressive in pursuing Al Qaeda than they might have been. During the Clinton years, the Pentagon drew up several plans to kill Osama bin Laden, but never carried them out. And the Bush administration, according to a report written by one of the panel's members was "not especially interested in the counter-terrorism agenda."

Controversy swirled around the testimony of Richard Clarke, the former anti-terrorism chief under both Clinton and Bush. In a book, published this week, Clarke claims that the Bush administration was uninterested in terrorism before 9/11, and obsessed with attacking Iraq afterwards. Members of the Bush administration criticized the anti-terror chief's argument, saying that his claims were both inaccurate and politically motivated. In front of the hearing, Clarke repeated his charges, but also apologized to 9/11's victims, saying that "those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you."

While efforts to prepare for a terrorist attack continue, city councilmembers criticized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for not spending $591 million in federal counter-terrorism funds it received nine months ago. The authority claims it has identified several projects to be funded with the money, adding that the delay is due to research into how to best apply the resources, not inaction.

But federal officials did say yesterday that security concerns at the the Statue of Liberty -- which have kept the landmark closed for over two years -- have been addressed. $5.9 million of the $7 million needed for extra security has been raised, and while a date has not been set, the reopening is "imminent."

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, March 19

p>The city staged a large-scale terrorist attack in Shea Stadium this week, as a drill for the city's emergency response teams. 1,000 rescue workers and 1,000 fake victims took part. Officials said they were pleased with the perfomance of those involved, whose accomplishment included locating and disarming a fake radioactive device. The exercise was originally intended to take place at Penn Station, but the Office of Emergency Management, which carried out the mock attack, could not work out an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Amtrak on how to do so.

While efforts to prepare for a terrorist attack continue, city councilmembers criticized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for not spending $591 million in federal counter-terrorism funds it received nine months ago. The authority claims it has identified several projects to be funded with the money, adding that the delay is due to research into how to best apply the resources, not inaction.

Several weeks after Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and a retired firefighter were criticized for taking souvenirs from Ground Zero, an inquiry has found that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller also have mementos from the site. A group of senators has called for the items to be returned, and the National Whistleblower Center, an association of attorneys, wants Rumsfeld to be investigated for violating federal statutes.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, March 12

A series of bombings on subways in Madrid killed close to 200 people yesterday, prompting New York to take extra security measures. Police officers increased their visibility in subway stations and cars, and are doing sweeps of trains to check for suspicious behavior. More officers and dogs have been deployed to the system's trains, tunnels, and bridges. Two intelligence officers have also gone to Spain, for "information gathering."

President George Bush visited the groundbreaking of a 9/11 memorial in Long Island yesterday, where he shed tears and drew protestors. The ceremony came several days after the president backed down on some conditions that he placed on his testimony in front of the federal panel investigating the 9/11 attacks. Bush had previously said that he would only allow one hour of questioning, but now says he will not put a time limit on his meeting with the panel. He did not budge on other requests by the panel however; he still says he will meet with only two members, and only behind closed doors.

A week after the Environmental Protection Agency announced the establishment of an independent panel to review its post 9/11 performance, a group of downtown residents filed a lawsuit against the agency, saying that it endangered tens of thousands of New Yorkers by mishandling the health risks caused by the collapse of the Twin Towers. The lawsuit asks for the cleaning of many downtown and Brooklyn apartments, funding to test the health of people who may have been affected, and reimbursement for those who paid to have their homes cleaned after 9/11.

Meanwhile, a report this week found that asthmatic children who lived within five miles of the World Trade Center increased visits to doctors and doses of medication after 9/11. The study examined 205 Asian-American children at a hospital in lower Manhattan.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, March 5

The Bush campaign defended its use of scenes from Ground Zero in television advertisements yesterday, after firefighters, families of 9/11 victims, and Democratic presidential rival John Kerry accused the president of exploiting 9/11 for political ends. The 30 second advertisements, which started to run on Thursday, show the ruins of the Twin Towers, and a flag-draped stretcher that appears to be carrying remains. The president's spokesman said that using images of Ground Zero was justifiable since national security is a major issue in the presidential race. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani will further voice the administration's side of the argument as the campaign progresses, the Bush campaign said.

Refined design guidelines for Ground Zero are being circulated among officials, planners and architects. The guidelines lay out the shapes of the buildings, the width sidewalks can be, and even the color of signs on the buildings. The rules for Ground Zero have been criticized in the past for being too strict; the most recent version is being described as more lenient.

As the plan for Ground Zero continues to evolve, the city broke its silence over the development of the site this Monday, when the City Planning Department held a meeting to discuss the plan for Ground Zero. The Department called for the more streets open to traffic, the relocation of a truck ramp, wider sidewalks, and more open space. Next week, the department will send its recommendations to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which can only reject them with a 2/3 vote of its board.

While Santiago Calatrava, the architect of the transportation hub, is designing a residential highrise elsewhere in Lower Manhattan, Reflecting Absence designer Michael Arad is trying to strengthen his grip on the memorial. As Arad and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation work on a contract, disputes have broken out over who will control hiring and how much land will be dedicated to the memorial. The disagreements have reportedly gotten bad enough that Arad has threatened to walk away from the project altogether.


Back to Rebuilding Roundup Archives << Rebuilding NYC