Rebuilding Roundup Archive: August 2004
Rebuilding Roundup for August 27
New York may never receive up to a quarter of the $20 billion that the federal government promised to it immediately following 9/11, warned City Comptroller William Thompson in a report published this week. OverĘ $11 billion has already arrived, and $4.2 billion is in the pipeline, according to the report. But it is not certain that some of the remaining funds, including the $870 million left in discretionary funds managed by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, will ever arrive. Thomson's report seems to contradict a study published by the city's Independent Budget Office earlier this month which said that the federal government was "in the process of making good on the initial promise of $20 billion."
On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert rattled New York lawmakers by saying that New York lawmakers had made an "unseemly scramble" in securing that promise of aid. Despite the comments, Hastert said he stood by the $20 billion package. Still, his comments drew the ire of New York's elected officials. "This administration has shown contempt for New York City, and has done everything possible not to help us with funding," said Representative Jerrold Nadler.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, who also had tough words for Hastert, said this week that the Victim Compensation Fund should be reopened for three more years. The fund paid out $7 billion to those who were injured or lost loved ones on 9/11. Maloney said that the hundreds of rescue workers who have continued to develop illnesses after the deadline should not be excluded.
The Coalition of 9/11 Families, saying that rebuilding officials are not obeying legally required historic preservation standards at Ground Zero, has filed suit against the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The organization wants to stop construction until preservation issues are resolved. Remnants of the destroyed trade center remain, but preserving them would be expensive and complicated. Preservationists and officials have long been in conflict over which items to salvage and which to sacrifice in the interests of a speedier reconstruction of the site.
The Bush administration's "reckless disregard" for the public's health after 9/11 caused many preventable sicknesses, according to a report published this week by the national environmental organization the Sierra Club. The report charges that the Environmental Protection Agency ignored its own test results, telling residents and workers in lower Manhattan that the area was safe, while other federal agencies refused to enforce healthy working standards at Ground Zero. The Bush administration is weakening the government's ability to respond to future disasters, the report added, by eliminating the role that the Occupational Safety and Health Organization has to enforce worker safety standards on national emergency sites. The Environmental Protection agency dismissed the report, saying it was politically motivated.
Almost half of the corporations questioned in a recent Department of Homeland Security-sponsored survey have either cut back on security spending since post 9/11 improvements, or never increased spending at all. The survey focused on firms with annual revenues between $20 million and $1 billion, one-third of which are in potentially vulnerable industries like transportation, financial services, utilities, and telecommunications. Forty percent of firms with more than 1,000 employees had established off-site emergency operation centers, but only 21 percent of smaller companies had. Many firms said that they had drawn up security plans after 9/11 but then never implemented them.
The ceremony at Ground Zero marking the third anniversary of 9/11 will closely resemble last year's event, the city announced this week. Parents and grandparents of the victims will read the names of each of those killed on 9/11 -- last year the victim's children took on this role. Family members will then be able to descend to the site's lowest point, where they can leave flowers. There will be four moments of silence during the ceremony, two marking the times the planes hit the towers, and two more marking the collapse of each tower. In the evening, the Tribute in Light will be displayed over lower Manhattan.
The dedication of Staten Island's 9/11 memorial is also scheduled for the third anniversary of the attack. The $2.7 million memorial will include granite plagues with the names, silhouettes, birthdays and workplaces of each of the 268 Staten Island residents killed in the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Construction began this Monday.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is favoring big business and real estate interests at the expense of community priorities, according to Good Jobs New York, a development watchdog group. In a report examining how the corporation has given out post 9/11 economic development grants, Good Jobs New York described a system lacking in accountability and transparency, and one that gave 34 percent of its money to organizations that have ties to board members. The report, which stressed that it was not accusing any individual members of malfeasance, called for a board representing a broader range of interests, as well as more focus on the housing and employment concerns of local communities. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation said the report's numbers were skewed, and that there was nothing wrong with granting money to organizations its board has ties to.
Daniel Libeskind, who the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation picked to design a master plan for the World Trade Center site, is entering the competition to design the ground zero cultural complex planned for Fulton and Greenwich Streets. It has been said that Libeskind, who was brushed aside as the lead architect of the Freedom Tower, has long had his eyes on designing one of these buildings. The two buildings in the complex will be designed by different architects, to be chosen on September 27. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has said it wants to see architectural "risk-taking" in their design; some have begun to worry that too many grandiose structures near one another will clutter the site.
A report by the city's Independent Budget Office, found that the Bush administration is making good on its promise to give $20.5 billion in post 9/11 aid to New York City. About half of the money has already come in, the report said. The remaining aid, which is tied to long-term projects, should come in as those projects move forward. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that even if the city does eventually receive the entire $20.5 billion, it will not be enough to confront ongoing security needs. His point was underscored by a recent congressional report that found that New York's per-capita share of federal homeland security funding has been cut in half from 2003 to 2004, even as other state's per-capita funding rose.Rebuilding Roundup for August 6
After "specific" intelligence pointing to an attack in New York, security measures early this week caused traffic delays and jitters for New Yorkers. Police restricted access to tunnels, set up checkpoints, and closed some streets entirely. The alert cost the city over $1.5 million in overtime costs for the police department, which in recent months has spent an average of $1 million weekly on overtime for anti-terrorism operations. About 1,000 police officers are assigned to terrorism full-time. For his part, Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged citizens to carry on with their regular schedules, as he has each time there has been a terror alert. Later in the week he expressed concern that terror threats are taking a toll on the city's economy.
The reason for the particularly rigorous security measures was a warning by federal officials that Al Qaeda was targeting the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup building in Midtown, as well as targets in New Jersey and Washington DC. Soon after it released the warning, the Department of Homeland Security was force to defend it, after it was reported that much of the information was years old. Even if the intelligence was old, said the department, it gave the troubling indication that Al Qaeda had the information it needed for an attack. The Bush administration has regularly been accused with putting out terror warnings when it is politically convenient rather than when it is necessary, a charge it denies.
Amidst the high security, the Statue of Liberty, which was closed for security reasons after 9/11, was partially reopened this week. Over 10,000 people sat through two checkpoints to visit the pedestal of the statue on Tuesday. The statue itself will remain closed to visitors indefinitely. Another institution closed because of the attacks, the post office at 90 Church Street, also reopened this week. The 15-story building, located across the street from the trade center site, was closed soon after the attacks, after being contaminated by asbestos, mercury, and mold.
President Bush endorsed the appointment of a national intelligence director this week, the major recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The intelligence director will not be part of the cabinet, however, and will not have the amount of control over the $40 billion intelligence budget that the commission had recommended. The commission, which has said that it intends to make its recommendations an election-year issue, responded cautiously, contrasting Bush's action to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's "unequivocal endorsement" of its recommendations. The debate over the national intelligence director will now move to Congress, which must enact legislation in order to create the post.