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Rebuilding NYC - Rebuilding Roundup Archive: April
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Rebuilding Roundup Archive: April

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Friday, April 26

City and state officials this week responded to criticism about the slow pace of the rebuilding by saying they will speed up the process. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the city-state agency created by Governor Pataki to oversee the rebuilding of the site, and the Port Authority announced jointly that they will be accepting proposals for developing the site of the World Trade Center until May 6. The two agencies will then choose up to six of the entries by July 1 before selecting a final candidate by September 1. They will then craft it into a detailed master plan by December 1.

The joint announcement came during a week when the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation tried to settle the dispute over who controls the rebuilding of the site. The two agencies signed a "cooperation agreement" outlining the role of both agencies on Tuesday which says that the Port Authority will have the final say on what is built on the site while the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will seek public input and take charge of plans for the memorial. However, the day after signing this agreement, the head of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, John Whitehead, insisted that "everybody has the final say" and that both boards will approve the final plan.

As the two agencies debated their roles, figures for the cost of the cleanup and the rebuilding emerged this week. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that the cleanup will cost up to $29 billion, $6 billion less than original city estimates. Once the cleanup is finished, the costs will begin to pile up immediately. Transportation alone will cost $7.4 billion, said Louis Tomson, executive director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

Finally, a coalition of labor, community and advocacy groups announced their recommendations for revitalizing New York City after September 11. While most of the recommendations released by other coalitions have focused primarily on the reconstruction efforts downtown, this week's statement from the Labor Community Advocacy Network for Rebuilding New York is the first to detail recommendations for the economic rebuilding throughout the city. The report suggests a program for creating 75,000 jobs, affordable housing downtown for low to middle income families, and higher wages for low-end workers throughout the city.

Friday, April 19

The New York City Department of Health has released a census of the September 11 victims. It is the first detailed look at the age, gender, and national origins of the 2,617 who are officially counted as having died on that day. (Several hundred more are still classified as missing). Forty-three percent of the dead were from New York City, with Manhattan accounting for the greatest number, followed by Brooklyn and then Queens. One out of five was a foreign-born resident living in the city, with the toll from Latin America exceeding that of more populous countries like Russia and Italy.

Earlier this week, the Tribute In Light, an interim memorial for September 11 which had been illuminating the skies since March, faded into dawn. Crowds of hundreds went to Lower Manhattan to see the memorial on its last night. Rather than shutting off the lights at 11 PM, as was customary during the memorial's exhibition, officials waited until dawn arrived the next morning and the lights had disappeared into the sunlight before turning off the power.

While the beloved memorial faded away, the memories of September 11 are still fresh in many minds. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly honored 192 dispatchers this week who fielded 911 calls from people trapped inside the World Trade Center before it collapsed. In many cases, their voices were the last voices the victims heard, and dispatchers spoke of their haunting experiences at the ceremony. Meanwhile, investigators still looking back to find why the towers collapsed found a valuable piece of wreckage from Ground Zero: a steel column that stretched from the 100th to the 104th floors of one of the north tower. Fire experts say that it is "an incredibly important find" due to its proximity to the plane's impact area.

There were more proposals this week for the World Trade Center site itself. The wall that will be built around the perimeter of Ground Zero may include see-through panels to allow people to view what's going on. The idea of a tomb for the unknown victims, similar to the Tomb of The Unknown Solider in Washington, D.C., has been gaining ground among victims' relatives, Mayor Bloomberg and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation officials. The tomb could be included as part of the permanent memorial.

Finally, Governor George Pataki announced that the state would condemn the property south of the 7 World Trade Center and hand it over to the Port Authority. This move will allow Larry Silverstein to begin rebuilding 7 World Trade Center and will also allow Greenwich Street to extend through the former site of the World Trade Center.

Friday, April 12

This week the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the city-state agency in charge of the rebuilding of downtown, released its official principles for action and a blueprint for redeveloping Ground Zero. The blueprint is still regarded primarily as a starting point for the rebuilding authority, despite the many specific ideas listed. General proposals, such as a transit hub downtown and the restoration of the street grid, have already been approved. Specific proposals, such as putting part of West Street underground or creating a "Freedom Park," will need to be reviewed for feasibility and cost before the corporation officially approves them, and no timeline has been set for choosing amongst the proposals or for beginning construction.

On the same day that the corporation released its initial plans, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the appointment of four new members of its board. Two of Bloomberg's appointees are women, including an Asian-American (architect Billie Tsien) and a Latin-American (attorney Sally Hernandez-Pinero). E. Stanley O'Neal, president and chief operating officer of Merrill Lynch, will be the second African-American on the Board. The Mayor also named Carl Weisbrod, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York. The board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which previously only included two women and one African-American, had been criticized for its lack of diversity.

There were signs of the continuing resurgence of Lower Manhattan. The multiplex movie theatre across the street from Ground Zero will reopen in May for the first time since September 11. Officials announced that The New York Cycling Championship, a new race featuring professional cyclists like Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, will come to Lower Manhattan in August. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that within a few weeks, efforts will begin to clean the exteriors of hundreds of buildings around the World Trade Center site, in an effort to keep pollutants like asbestos from blowing off them and into apartments.

Finally, this weekend the Tribute In Light, the interim memorial that has lit the night skies over New York City since March 11, will go dark.

Friday, April 5

Two new reports this week detailed the staggering toll that September 11 inflicted economically on communities throughout the city. A quarter of the 34,000 workers in Chinatown lost their jobs, according to a report by the Asian American Federation. In the Bronx, a survey of 151 local businesses found that they lost a third of their sales and let go of 11 percent of their employees. The vast majority of the businesses were unaware that they qualified for post-September 11 assistance.

While these communities have felt much of the economic impact from the World Trade Center collapse, the New York Fire Department, which lost 343 firefighters on September 11, is still struggling with the emotional impact. It was reported this week that firefighters are retiring at more than triple the usual rate this year. Fire officials say the surge in departures is due to emotional exhaustion from the collapse of the World Trade Center and the ensuing rescue and recovery effort. In the face of the exodus of firefighters, the department continues to try to rebuild itself. Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said before a City Council committee that the department hopes to double its hazardous materials squad, stockpile equipment and medical supplies, and boost training. However, such restructuring depends on whether or not they receive $261 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Also this week, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the city-state authority in charge of rebuilding downtown, hired three new staff members to fill key positions. And Louis Tomson, executive director of the agency, who is credited with having introduced the MetroCard, announced that he expects by the end of this month to have produced an official list of the corporation's specific objectives; to release a list of ideas for accomplishing those objectives; and to have come up with a publication schedule for issue papers on such topics as transportation and a memorial.

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