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Rebuilding NYC - Rebuilding Roundup Archive: August
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Rebuilding Roundup Archive: August

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Friday, August 30

Only a few days after the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the 1 and 9 subway lines are scheduled to be open for business. In a reconstruction effort that will be completed two months earlier than expected, the subway lines, which passed beneath the World Trade Center towards South Ferry and Battery Park, will be open for business in mid-September, possibly as early as September 15. Another sign of the continuing rebuilding of downtown was the reopening this week of Saint Paul's Chapel, which is less than a block from the World Trade Center site. During the months that the church was closed to the public, it provided hot meals to recovery workers and served as a refuge from the work at Ground Zero. After a thorough cleaning, the church is now open to the public for the first time since September 11.

Meeting with victims' family groups to discuss the future of Ground Zero, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he thought the Port Authority should not be involved in rebuilding Lower Manhattan. He repeated the criticism that the Port Authority placed too much emphasis on reconstructing the office space that was at the site.

Six people who had been officially listed by the city as missing or presumed dead after the September 11th attacks have been discovered alive. Among those found was a sidewalk vendor from Newark who turned up in a Manhattan hospital and is suffering from amnesia. Five others have also been discovered alive and will be removed from the list of the missing. The discovery of these missing persons is part of an effort by the city medical examiner's office to correct any potential errors before the official list of victims is read at commemoration ceremonies next month.

Friday, August 23

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation unveiled the first part of a viewing wall for visitors to the site. On the first section of the 13-foot wire mesh fence, which allows visitors to view Ground Zero, is a panel with images of the fallen Twin Towers. Eventualy panels with the names of all the victims from the September 11 attacks will be hung on the viewing wall, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The names will be taken from the first comprehensive list of the September 11 World Trade Center victims, which was released this week by the city medical examiner's office. The 2,819 names will also be read at a memorial service at the World Trade Center site on September 11, although the city says that it may not be the final tally, pending further investigation.

After the release of a report this past Monday from consulting firm McKinsey & Company on the city's emergency response to September 11, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta pledged to make both technological and even cultural changes within the police and fire departments. The report said that the fire department suffered from radio communications problems, while the police department was plagued by coordination problems and poor training and planning. Steps to be taken by the city include installing equipment in high-rise buildings that will boost radio communications vital to rescue workers and ensuring more cooperation between the police and fire departments.

The American Red Cross and the September 11th Fund announced a new program to make long-term psychiatric help available to hundreds of thousands who were directly affected by the September 11 attacks. Those who are eligible for the program, which includes family members of those killed on September 11, rescue and recovery workers who worked at Ground Zero and children in schools below Canal Street and their families, will be reimbursed for the cost of psychotherapy, drug or alcohol treatment, psychotropic medications and, in some cases, hospital care. Reports this week indicated less demand than expected for Project Liberty, a short-term crisis counseling service with $132 million in federal funding. While about 200,000 people, less than a tenth of those expected, have come forward for free counseling, calls to the Project Liberty hotline are increasing as the anniversary nears, according to city and state health officials.

Friday, August 16

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the agency in charge of rebuilding downtown, announced this week that it will be conducting two international design competitions, one for the World Trade Center site as a whole, the other for the memorial.

The call for new designs effectively signals an official rejection of the initial six plans for the site released in July. The new competition also means that the timeline for the rebuilding process will be extended. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will choose up to five licensed architectural or urban planning firms to come up with new proposals by September 30 and will select three new plans by the end of the year. The final design concept for the site will not be complete until spring 2003. The rebuilding agency is cooperating with New York New Visions, a coalition of architecture and design firms involved in the rebuilding process, in the selection of the firms. The designs in the competition will incorporate features the public strongly favors, including housing, cultural institutions, and a distinctive skyline.

Anita Contini, who earlier this month was put in charge of the memorial, announced the international competition for the design of a memorial, with plans for a final selection by fall 2003. The criteria for the design of the memorial and the details of the competition are still to be determined.

Public officials announced that the federal government approved $4.5 billion for improving transportation downtown. The money will be used to build a new PATH terminal, a revamped subway station at Broadway and Fulton streets, and an underground concourse connecting the two to create a "Grand Central" for downtown. While the funds were already part of the $21 billion aid package to New York, it was only this past week that the money for construction of new transportation (not just rebuilding the old infrastructure) was approved by the federal govermnent. Officials from the Port Authority and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation estimated that with this infusion of cash, the new transit hub could be completed in three to five years.

Finally, the official count of the victims at the World Trade Center attack went down for the first time in four months this week. Suspecting fraud, the medical examiner's office has removed four names from their official list of the dead. The city's official tally of the victims from the collapse of the twin towers is now 2,819.

Friday, August 9

In an effort to gain control of the World Trade Center site, the city proposed this week that it trades the land occupied by LaGuardia and Kennedy airports to the Port Authority in exchange for ownership of the 16 acres of the World Trade Center site. The Port Authority currently owns the land at Ground Zero while it rents the space for the airports from the city. A land swap would eliminate the agency from the rebuilding process and give the city much more control over the site than it currently wields. Advocates of the proposal, which was introduced by Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor of economic development and rebuilding, believe that taking the Port Authority out of the process will allow the redevelopment at Ground Zero to be less focused on the construction of commercial and office space and more towards varied development, including housing. Critics of the plan, however, note that if the city gives up the airports, it will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue from rent increases charged to the Port Authority. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that any land swap would be part of "a large package," suggesting that the city may consider asking the Port Authority for a one-time payment along with the World Trade Center land to compensate for lost revenues.

Mayor Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki announced the official plans for commemorating the one-year anniversary of September 11 this week. Early morning on the 11th, five bagpipe processions will march through the five boroughs of the city, all converging at Ground Zero at 8 AM. After a moment of silence at 8:46 AM, the official ceremony will begin, including readings by Governor Pataki and New Jersey Governor James McGreevey of the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence, a roll call of all victims of the September 11 attacks read by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and a procession down into the excavated World Trade Center site by victims' families. Other events during the day will include a visit by President George Bush, the lighting of an eternal flame in Battery Park, and candlelight vigils throughout the five boroughs.

Almost 11 months after the attacks, the federal government issued its first payment to the family of a September 11 victim. The Victim Compensation Fund, a federal relief agency set up to handle compensation to victims' families, distributed $1.04 million to the family of a recent college graduate making about $60,0000 a year who died in the World Trade Center. Victims' families have been hesitant to apply for federal aid due to a complicated application process and a requirement that those who accept federal compensation waive their right to sue the airline industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency also announced that in September it will expand upon what it calls its largest cleanup ever by testing 250 apartments for toxic metals like lead and mercury, and then cleaning them if necessary. This is an expansion of the program announced by the federal agency in June to test and clean any apartments in Lower Manhattan for asbestos. All residents downtown south of Canal and Pike Streets are eligible, with the agency accepting requests until September 3.

Finally, officials from the state Housing Finance Agency announced yesterday that they have approved $300 million in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds for the construction of three luxury apartment buildings downtown. Under the terms of the deal, developers of the three buildings, which will be built in Battery Park City and on Liberty Street, will receive $100 million each in bond funds, and will not have to pay real-estate taxes for 20 years. Opponents of the new housing criticized the deal for only allocating five percent of the buildings to affordable housing and suspending the 10-day public notice requirement.

Friday, August 2

With six weeks remaining until the September 11 anniversary, public officials and businesses throughout New York City have been taking a serious look at the most appropriate way to mark the date. One idea mentioned by officials this week would be to hold simultaneous tributes in parks in each borough of the city on September 11. While a spokesperson for the mayor refused to comment on this proposal, he did remark that Mayor Michael Bloomberg would announce plans for commemorating the date soon. The city has certainly not lacked for ideas - by at least one report, 4,500 people have written or e-mailed the mayor's office with suggestions, which have included tolling church bells and floating 3,000 candles, one for every victim of the September 11 attacks, in New York Harbor. However, without a clear sense of what the city will be doing, local businesses are hesitant to announce any plans out of concerns that they will be seen as exploiting the anniversary.

A lawyer for Larry Silverstein, the developer who owns the lease to the World Trade Center, said that Silverstein has every intention of exercising his right to rebuild the 11 million square feet of office space at the site. Only a couple days later, however, Governor George Pataki said that state or federal authorities could condemn the land surrounding the site and thus expand the area to be developed beyond the 16 acres of Ground Zero. This led to speculation that the state could legally condemn the site itself and pay the Port Authority billions of dollars for the rights to the land. If this happened, Larry Silverstein would lose his right to rebuild, according to the terms of his lease, and there would no longer be a requirement for millions of feet of office space to be built, a requirement which has frustrated the public's desire for a more creative plan for the site.

Regardless of where the legal wrangling ends up, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is responding to criticism about the mediocrity of their first six plans for the site. The agency suggested that they may open up the design process and invite more designers to submit proposals, including smaller firms and foreign companies. It was also revealed this week that there was disagreement within the corporation and with the Port Authority over the selection of the six plans that were presented to the public. A rebuilding task force made up of members of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority picked the six plans out of nine possibilities in July. However, after the group made their six selections, two of the designs were switched with two alternate designs without the consent of the task force. While the two plans that were not presented as part of the six official plans were mostly similar to the other four proposals, concerns were raised internally about the process, with some of the officials described as "furious" about the decision to override the group's vote.

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