Rebuilding Roundup Archive: August

Previous Roundups
Friday, October 25

According to regulators from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the vast majority of apartments in lower Manhattan that have been checked for asbestos have not been contaminated by asbestos from the World Trade Center collapse. 250 apartments have been tested since the asbestos testing and cleanup program began a few months ago, and only three of them had levels of asbestos above the agency's safety levels. While the agency is still going through 6,000 apartments registered to be tested and cleaned, critics feel that federal officials took too long to begin the cleanup program, and some say that they should be testing for contaminants other than asbestos.

New York City schools will get back some of the time lost due to the terrorist attacks last year thanks to an $80 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money will allow schools throughout the city to add 15 hours of instruction, while schools in lower Manhattan, which were closed for several days after September 11, will receive funds to pay for 30 extra hours of instruction. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said that he is leaving it up to individual principals to determine how those hours are to be used in their schools, including whether or not to use the time in one block or to divide it into smaller units. While local officials have been asking for the money for a year, there were delays in processing the requests because the city did not provide specific details of how the money was to be used and what it was to be used for.

A report released at the end of August by the Federal Reserve Board and the Securities and Exchange Commission recommended that financial companies locate their backup offices 200 to 300 miles away from their main headquarters. With the comment period for the report ending this week, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined city business leaders in criticizing the proposed guidelines. "It could lead to the loss of up to 20 to 25 percent of the jobs in the financial services industry in the region if broadly implemented," said Kathryn Wylde, president of the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Bloomberg said that taking such measures would be "giving in to the terrorists." Officials who wrote the document argue that by creating far-flung backup offices, major financial institutions will be able to resume operations on the same day as a catastrophe like the September 11 terrorist attacks rather than waiting a few days to reopen.

Friday, October 18

Lower Manhattan residents at a City Hall hearing argued that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not made enough of an effort to promote their relief programs to communities in Chinatown or the Lower East Side. Representatives from the Urban Justice Center, an advocacy group for the poor and homeless in the city, provided statistics pointing to a wide gap in the amount of aid given to areas in the Lower East Side, with less than one percent of households receiving aid, compared to neighborhoods just north of the World Trade Center, where nearly a third of households got help.

Five major civic and professional rebuilding coalitions -- Imagine New York, Labor Community Advocacy Network (LCAN), New York City Arts Coalition, New York New Visions, and Rebuild Downtown Our Town (R.Dot) -- released a statement outlining nine principles for rebuilding New York City. While each of the groups have released their own recommendations for rebuilding in the past, this latest set of principles encompasses the ideas common to all groups. The statement calls for taking a citywide and regional approach to rebuilding, rather than focusing solely on lower Manhattan. It also advocates for providing new cultural opportunities in the rebuilding and supports an open, inclusive public process.

Construction resumed on a new residential building in Battery Park City after a 10-month break during the cleanup of Ground Zero. What makes this building at 20 River Terrace notable is that it is slated to be the world's most environmentally efficient residential high-rise, with air-purifiers, solar-panels and a rooftop garden. Many planners and architects involved in the rebuilding have expressed a desire to create similar "green buildings" downtown, and they will be closely following the progress of the building's construction, which is expected to be completed next spring.

Friday, October 11

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation agreed this week to adjust the guidelines for the six teams that will be designing the World Trade Center site to allow less office space at Ground Zero. In a deal reached with the Port Authority and the city, the new regulations will require the designers to include between 6.5 million and 10 million square feet of office space on the site, which is less than the 11 million square feet required in the original proposals released by the corporation in July. While the reduction in office space opens the way for parks and open space at Ground Zero, the architects and planners are being asked not to include residential buildings on the site.

Under a federal program aimed at keeping residents in lower Manhattan, 313 downtown tenants will receive checks this month for a combined $625,000 over two years, according to officials in charge of the program. More than 15,000 have applied for the grants, which pay for 30 percent of the tenants' monthly mortgage or rent payments over two years up to a total of $12,000. The grants will also be tax-free, according to Senator Charles Schumer's office. This week officials representing Schumer said that the Internal Revenue Service is planning on exempting lower Manhattan residents from paying most, if not all, taxes on the federal grants they receive for staying in the area.

While an independent study issued in August suggested that the city's emergency services require a unified command structure to oversee the different departments, the city's fire and police commissioners said at a City Council hearing this week that they did not feel such a structure is necessary. The two commissioners agreed that the departments should work more closely together during large-scale emergencies and come up with a written protocol agreed on by both departments, but they argued against the idea of a single authority, saying that such a system would be impossible in situations requiring massive resources and where conditions were changing rapidly. Others at the hearing disagreed, with Peter L. Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, saying that if more steps weren't taken to coordinate the activities of the emergency workers, "We are doomed to repeat our failures of 9/11."

Friday, October 4

Representatives of victims' families groups and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation began a six-day tour of memorial sites around the United States this week. The trip is intended to help officials come up with ideas for planning the World Trade Center memorial. Officials dropped by Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon with the intention of discussing the coordination of memorial plans. However families' groups were upset upon learning that the Pentagon's proposed memorial will not list the World Trade Center victims alongside the names of the 184 victims who died at the Pentagon. Other sites to be visited include the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

Although 32 percent of those surveyed in a new poll by the New York Times and CBS News think the new buildings at Ground Zero should be as tall as the twin towers, 53 percent said they would not be willing to work in buildings that tall. Just over half, also 53 percent, say they would have no problem visiting an observation deck or a restaurant at that height. 59 percent of those surveyed felt that the new buildings should not be as tall as the World Trade Center towers.

Senator Charles Schumer drew criticism from public officials and transportation advocates early this week after saying that federal funds for rebuilding transportation should only be used for a new transportation hub downtown, not for other transportation improvements. Schumer argued that the money should not go towards projects that are not directly related to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation have been advocating for using some of the $4.6 billion from the federal government to renovate the South Ferry terminal and the Rector Street subway station. The two state agencies say that the renovation projects are important to the revitalization of lower Manhattan. By the end of the week, Schumer met with rebuilding officials and indicated that "there seems to be enough money for both."

Back to Rebuilding Roundup Archives << Rebuilding NYC