The new president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Kevin Rampe, delivered a speech about the next steps for the World Trade Center site at a Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association Forum on March 20. Below is a transcript of his remarks.
Before I begin, allow me to reflect for a moment on events taking place thousands of miles away, but nonetheless relevant to our work here in lower Manhattan. With the outbreak of war, we are reminded of the high purpose to which all of us have dedicated ourselves in the aftermath of September 11th. Lower Manhattan has come to symbolize not only the devastation of terrorism, but the depth of our resolve to overcome it. And as our nation meets a new challenge, I think it is appropriate we come together this morning and renew our pledge to rebuild.
I also want to thank the Downtown Alliance for hosting this event. Before and after September 11th, the alliance has been lower Manhattan's strongest advocate, fighting to ensure that this community reaches its greatest potential. You have been a terrific leader in the rebuilding effort.
Last month, we achieved a critical milestone - the selection of Daniel Libeskind's design, memory foundations. His inspiring plan envisions the World Trade Center site as a place where loss is remembered and life is celebrated, reconciling what had seemed an impossible contradiction. The selection of the plan marked the end of one phase of the rebuilding effort - the laying of a foundation - and the beginning of a new one. It also provided an opportunity to assess the progress we've made and to chart a new course for the future.
Over the next several months, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will focus on four principal areas as we carry out our mission:
- planning on the World Trade Center site and the creation of a fitting memorial;
- coordinating the creation of a 21st century transportation infrastructure;
- developing initiatives to revitalize lower Manhattan beyond the World Trade Center site;
- and allocating the remainder of federal aid in support of the revitalization effort
the first and most pressing issue we must address is how to proceed with on-site planning now that a design has been selected. The Port Authority and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation are equally committed to ensuring that Libeskind's vision is realized. Today, I'm pleased to announce that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Port Authority are reaffirming the historic partnership we entered into last year. That partnership brought us to a single plan. It will now transform the plan into a reality.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Port Authority will jointly retain studio Daniel Libeskind as the master design architect. In this role, he will be directly involved with all aspects of planning for the site, with each agency taking the lead on specific issues.
With respect to the memorial and cultural district, and the public outreach process, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will take the lead. In fact, Libeskind is already working with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and its consultants to prepare the international competition for the memorial, which will begin this spring. Details of how the competition will be structured and how a design is to be selected will be announced within the next few weeks.
With respect to on-site transportation facilities and infrastructure planning, the Port Authority will take the lead. And with respect to refinement of the master site plan, the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will jointly retain Libeskind - continuing the same partnership that produced the design. To ensure that the site is developed in a manner consistent with Libeskind's vision and the principles adopted during the design competition, the Port and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will jointly retain Libeskind - and working in partnership with the city, the state and the leaseholders to develop commercial design guidelines. These guidelines will bind all future commercial development on the site, ensuring we adhere to the highest standards of safety and excellence.
This partnership also sends a clear message to businesses, downtown residents and the entire nation: Daniel Libeskind's vision will be realized, and his hand will guide the way. I want to personally thank Joe Seymour for his leadership and vision from the very beginning of the rebuilding effort. No one has done more to advance the revitalization of lower Manhattan than Joe Seymour. His work in lower Manhattan is a model for public service - thank you Joe.
The second area Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will focus on is transportation. Even prior to September 11th, lower Manhattan's antiquated transportation infrastructure had placed it at a disadvantage with other commercial areas. The attack worsened an already difficult situation, interrupting service for months on several subway lines and displacing tens of thousands of path commuters until this very day. Although lower Manhattan is the third largest central business district in the nation - it has no direct rail or airport access. And while numerous north-south subway lines serve lower Manhattan, they are not well-integrated from west to east, making a seamless commute very difficult.
Thanks to $4.5 billion in federal aid, that's all about to change. Governor Pataki has outlined several projects to transform lower Manhattan's transportation infrastructure into a 21st century system. The projects include a new station on the site akin to grand central, which would link to a new MTA station at Fulton and Broadway via an underground concourse. The new MTA Fulton transit center would rationalize a convoluted web of 13 subway lines. As a result, all of lower Manhattan's transportation lines would be integrated into one seamless system. The governor's priorities also call for airport access. In the near future the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, in partnership with city and state transportation agencies, will release a transportation report for lower Manhattan. One thing however is clear, transportation improvements, a direct rail link to the airports in particular, are the most vital public investment we can make for lower Manhattan's future.
While the World Trade Center site will serve as a catalyst for a renewal throughout lower Manhattan, much remains to be done to harness the optimism the plan has unleashed. The September 11th attacks took more than twenty seven hundred lives and destroyed the World Trade Center, but the effects radiated far beyond the 16 acres, impacting communities from Chinatown to Tribeca, SoHo to the financial district. In order to address the lingering effects of September 11th and spark a broader revitalization, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will pursue several off-site initiatives. Fortunately, Mayor Bloomberg provided a blueprint to revitalize lower Manhattan last year when he released a vision for lower Manhattan - our off-site planning efforts will be consistent with that blueprint.
Over the next several months, we will continue to work in partnership with Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff to pursue those initiatives. Examples include easing traffic congestion in Chinatown brought about by heightened security; increasing the mix of uses on Fulton Street to create a new east-west retail and entertainment corridor in lower Manhattan that stretches river to river; increasing open spaces downtown to provide a more welcoming environment for families; or increasing the housing stock, making lower Manhattan into a true, 24-hour, 7 day a week community.
It is an ambitious agenda, but an achievable one. Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is unique among planning agencies because, while private capital will be critical to fully achieving our vision, we actually have the resources to make targeted public investments that will trigger the commitment of private capital. In the coming months, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will work to allocate the remainder of the $2.8 billion in federal aid that congress appropriated. The success of Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's residential grant program, which is credited with normalizing the vacancy rate downtown, is a testament to the positive impact federal aid can have on the revitalization effort. The remainder of the funds can be used for such purposes as building critical infrastructure, improving the quality of life or providing funding for projects when other sources fall short.
These are the four areas Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will address in the months ahead. When completed, they will have brought us much closer to fulfilling our mission: revitalizing lower Manhattan and restoring faith in the future of this great community.
Daniel Libeskind has supplied the vision; the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Port Authority will supply the resources and the resolve to make it a reality. And when cynics argue that ultimately, Libeskind's plan will not look exactly is it does today, I cannot disagree: as Daniel often says, it will look even better!