Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union

You're on an older version of the site, please click here to view the current site

Rebuilding NYC - Testimonies From The 2003 Public Hearings
Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette

Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union

You're on an older version of the site, please click here to view the current site

Rebuilding NYC

• Previously Featured

Public Hearings for Ground Zero

Testimonies From The Public Hearings

At the public hearings, people from throughout the metropolitan region testified about the rebuilding downtown. Some criticized the public process, while others reacted to the specific plans.

See what participants said below.
By Erica Pearson

Every three minutes, a new person stood up at the public hearings for the new Ground Zero plans and offered his or her opinion, though rarely about the new plans themselves. The gentleman from the Audubon Society called on the planners to design "bird-friendly buildings." Laurence Russo presented his own plan for the site. Andrew Oliff stood up to say that the only buildings he could accept were the Twin Towers, rebuilt. Sally Regenhard said that the city of New York, not the Port Authority, should have control over Ground Zero.

So it went, every three minutes for four long hours. If there was one thing that absolutely everybody agreed on it was this: these public hearings were done wrong. It was almost as if, some say, officials wanted to be seen listening to public opinion rather than actually having to take the public's opinions into account.

"Three minute sound bites do not allow for substantive input," said Ron Shiffman, director of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development. "It was just structured the wrong way."

Engaging the public
Back in December, Bob Yaro, head of the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown, and other civic leaders had predicted that the hearings, where whoever shows up gets to talk for three minutes while everyone else listens, would be much less productive than the Listening to the City town hall meeting in July, where a demographically diverse group of 5,000 people talked in small groups about specific details of the first six plans. Instead, the recent hearings looked to some like a show of public participation that the development corporation could conveniently dismiss as unfocused and unproductive.

In early January, the Municipal Art Society's project Imagine New York held roundtable discussions about the new plans. 300 participants highlighted important likes and dislikes about the designs, said co-director Holly Leicht. A report summarizing the responses is available online. During the workshop, three plans emerged as favorites: those by Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster and Peterson/Littenberg.

These three plans were also ranked as favorites by people sending in comments to the development corporation's web site and in a New York Times poll. The top two plans for Gotham Gazette readers are by Foster and United Architects, with Libeskind's design and the THINK team's Sky Park plan tied for third.

Asking the same questions
Times reporter Ed Wyatt covered the first hearing without quoting from a single actual testimony, saying that most who spoke just repeated things that have already been said over and over.

Diane Horning, whose son was killed on September 11, responded to Wyatt's article at the second hearing, saying that people are bringing up the same questions because they haven't yet been addressed. "I suggest then that the LMDC answer those questions and address those problems so that we don't have to be so annoyingly repetitive," said Horning, who belongs to the group WTC Families for a Proper Burial. The group is calling for all of the unknown remains that were brought to the Fresh Kills landfill during the cleanup to be interred as part of the memorial.

While Horning called for assurances about the memorial, Hugh Hardy, from New York New Visions, a coalition of 21 architecture, planning and engineering organizations, suggested that the nine new plans be set aside until the agencies in charge of rebuilding resolve questions about a development strategy for the World Trade Center site. "The schemes represent a quandary. They are hampered without a realistic program and development strategy for the site, caused by a lack of clearly directed leadership," he said at the hearing. New York New Visions has a report evaluating all of the designs, which is available online (PDF format).

Shiffman, from the Pratt Institute, has also advocated for a new development plan. He said that the guidelines for rebuilding given to the architecture teams, which call for building most of the office and retail space that existed before the attacks, don't make sense for lower Manhattan today. "To adopt a 1970's program as the basis for rebuilding as is just as idiotic as rebuilding the towers the way they were," he said.

Post your thoughts on the public hearings on our message board

Testimonies From the 2003 Public Hearing

Reactions to the Plans

Opinions of 300
Holly Leicht, co-director of Imagine New York

The Skyline Is A Symbol Of Hopes And Dreams
Matt, city resident

The Centrality of the Memorial
Norman, lower Manhattan resident

Is This The Right Program? Is This The Right Process?
Jay Allen Zimmerman, former Lower Manhattan resident

A Virtual Declaration of War On Our Community
John Dellaportas, Coalition To Save West Street

Rebuild The Twin Towers

Don't Acknowledge Bin Laden as Your Urban Planner
Andrew Oliff, Manhattan resident

Safe Skyscapers

Do The Land Swap Deal
Sally Regenhard and Laura Weinberg, Skyscraper Safety Campaign


A Truly Democratic Process?

Where Has The Dialogue Been?
Michael Kuo, Municipal Art Society

Not Just One-Way Communication
Paul Epstein, Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown

We Have A Charter, Let's Live By It
Ron Shiffman, Pratt Institute Center for Community and Economic Development

Creating An Appropriate Memorial

Create Something Respectful, Embracing, Reverent And Life-Affirming
Nikki Stern, member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Families Advisory Committee

Honestly and Truthfully Report What Happened
Jack Lynch, Coalition of 9/11 Families

A Separate Space For the Rescue Workers
Bill McLoughlin, Bronx resident

Respect the Dead, Not the Deadline
Diane Horning, WTC Families for Proper Burial, and Laura Walker, Rockland County resident and widow