Rebuilding Roundup Archive: November

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Friday, November 29

President George W. Bush this week appointed Henry Kissinger, the 79-year-old former Secretary of State, to lead a 10-member commission that will conduct an independent investigation into the attacks on September 11, 2001 - its causes; whether the attacks could have been averted; what changes are needed to prevent a similar occurrence.

Most of the latest rebuilding news also comes out of the feds. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was criticized for its failure to pay the rent on a mailbox that was receiving applications for federal aid. About 300 applications that arrived in the mailbox after it was closed due to non-payment were sent back stamped "Return to Sender." While the agency has paid its bill and reopened the mailbox, the returned applications have to be re-sent. The timing could not have been worse, since the deadline for the grant program for affected individuals and families is December 1. The agency refuses to extend its deadline, and urged those who still need to apply to contact the agency at 1-800-462-9029.

Senator Charles Schumer this week blasted a recent federal report suggesting that the major financial institutions around Wall Street should relocate their backup offices at least 300 miles away from the city. Schumer called on the federal agencies that commissioned the report, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board, to scrap the plan and come up with an alternative solution.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler introduced a bill that could insure that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation would handle the process for the creation and design of the memorial on the site of the World Trade Center, with the National Parks Service taking care of the administration of the memorial site after its creation. Groups advocating for the families of 9/11 victims have criticized the corporation's handling of the memorial process, but they scored a victory this week with the appointment of Monica Iken, one of the most outspoken advocates for victims' families and the founder of September's Mission, to the corporation's memorial advisory group.

Friday, November 22
As the December deadline approaches for planners and architects hired by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to come up with designs for Ground Zero, details of their work are beginning to emerge. Roland Betts, a director of the rebuilding agency, described the proposals so far as "astoundingly innovative, creative and exciting." Among the ideas are a memorial garden and a memorial on top of a tower housing a cultural museum . However it is still uncertain how their plans will combine with those of the Port Authority, which just announced on Thursday that they will release their own master plan for the site in February. Officials from the Port Authority insisted that their master plan would be the foundation for the overall layout of the site and that they would include some of the architectural designs by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's planners in their plan.

Many of those talking about what would or should go up on the site of the World Trade Center have included civic groups, public officials or visionaries. Little was heard from the developers who owned the leases to the property that was destroyed -- until this week.

Developer Larry Silverstein announced the design this week of the new 7 World Trade Center. It will be the first new building to rise from Ground Zero since September 11. The new skyscraper will be 750 feet tall, or 52 stories, and will feature new safety features that exceed current regulations, including wider staircases and double the required fireproofing material. Unlike the previous building, this new 7 World Trade Center will not block Greenwich Street. The $700-million tower is expected to be completed in late 2005.

Frank Lowy, the head of the company that holds the rights to build stores at the World Trade Center site, said this week that the amount of retail space there will be double the amount that was there before September 11. Lowy said that he had spoken to officials from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority, and they promised that his company, the Westfield Group, would be more active in the process of determining what is built at Ground Zero. While there was previously 430,000 square feet of retail space at the World Trade Center, much of it in an underground mall, officials have instructed planners working on designs for the site to accommodate up to one million square feet of retail space in their proposals.

Friday, November 15
A temporary PATH terminal being built at Ground Zero may actually end up being a permanent fixture, according to the Port Authority. Officials from the Port Authority attending an architecture conference in Boston released preliminary designs for a transit hub suggesting that the temporary PATH station under construction between Greenwich and Fulton Streets will be the foundation for a permanent station. While no final decisions have been made, officials said the existing infrastructure for the previous PATH station, which was located beneath the World Trade Center, is still in good condition and could be used in the creation of a permanent station on the site.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced this week that it is creating two new committees that will work on figuring out a vision for the World Trade Center memorial. One committee will draft a mission statement for the memorial, while the other will recommend what elements should be included in the design of the memorial. Some family groups oppose the creation of the committees, arguing that they don't see the need for extra committees when a families advisory council already exists. Some family groups prefer that the federal government be involved in the memorial process, supporting a bill proposed in the House of Representatives this week that would grant federal officials final approval over the memorial and pay for up to half the construction costs of the memorial.

A new report from the Rebuild Chinatown Initiative, a coalition of community groups, says that more than a year after the World Trade Center attacks, Chinatown is still reeling from the aftermath and faces grave economic problems. The unemployment rate in Chinatown is double the city's average, according to the report, while jobs have become more scarce, with about half as many factory jobs in the neighborhood garment industry than there were before September 11.

Friday, November 8
City leaders promised that New York's $5 billion bid for the 2012 Olympics, which was selected as the U.S. candidate for the games, would not take funds away from the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. "Financially, there isn't an impact because the funding streams are totally separate," said Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff. Critics have said they are worried that the city may be unable to carry out two such enormous public works projects at once.

Now that the election is over, changes may be ahead for the agency in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center site. Lower Manhattan Development Corporation president Lou Tomson is reportedly planning to resign, and state officials speculated that chairman John Whitehead may be replaced. Insiders also said that newly-reelected Gov. George Pataki may decide to dissolve the development corporation and give more control over rebuilding to the city.

Eight firefighters who were arrested during a November 2, 2001 protest march to Ground Zero filed a lawsuit against the city, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and others, claiming that they were falsely arrested and imprisoned. The firefighters were among the over 500 who protested Giuliani's decision to assign fewer personnel to the search-and-recovery operation at the World Trade Center site. The protest developed into a confrontation with police, and 15 people, including the plaintiffs, were arrested. The lawsuit contends that the arrests were unfounded.

Friday, November 1
New reports released this week examine what happened on September 11 and the effects on the city. One study by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes that design flaws in the construction of the World Trade Center contributed to the towers' collapse. Single bolts, instead of multiple bolts, were used to connect the floors on each level to the columns that supported the weight of the towers. "It was not a faulty design, but it was a weak design," said Professor Eduardo Kausel, who worked on the study. These findings bolster a number of lawsuits filed by victims' families that claim faulty design by the Port Authority contributed to the collapse of the towers. The report also comes just days after engineers hired by World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein issued a report with a different conclusion. They found that there were no design flaws that contributed to the collapse of the towers; the impact of the planes and the resulting fires made the collapse inevitable.

LaGuardia and Kennedy airports suffered economic losses after September 11, 2001, according to a report by the Center for an Urban Future, which cost the city thousands of jobs. The airline industry alone saw a 16.5 percent reduction in its workforce, totalling about 10,000 jobs. Other airport-dependent businesses affected by the downturn at the two city airports include trucking and warehousing companies, which eliminated over 1,000 jobs, and hotels near Kennedy airport, where the drop in the number of occupants was four times worse than throughout the rest of the city.

A new study commissioned by the City Council proposes the construction of a market hall at Ground Zero. The report, written by Projects for Public Spaces and the Public Market Collaborative, predicts that a public hall of 42,000 square feet could generate $15 million in annual sales while operating on a budget of less than $1 million. Advocates for the plan say that the creation of such public spaces will be integral to restoring vitality to lower Manhattan. The proposal will be sent to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and other officials involved in the rebuilding downtown.


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