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Rebuilding NYC - Rebuilding Roundup Archive: December 2003

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Rebuilding Roundup Archive: December 2003

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Friday, Dec 19

This morning, Governor George Pataki unveiled the design for the Freedom Tower, the 1,776 foot tower that was the centerpiece of site plan architect Daniel Libeskind's vision for Ground Zero. The design was first shown on NBC's Today Show, leading critics to accuse the governor of exploiting 9/11 to gain publicity for political gain. David Childs, the head architect for the tower itself, has altered Libeskind's vision, designing a twisting tower topped by electricity-generating windmills. Libeskind rigorously opposed earlier versions of Childs' design, and only after a rough-and-tumble negotiating period did the two men agree to anything at all.

A final memorial design will not be decided on before the new year, as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation had originally hoped. Reports say that a decision will be delayed "at least a month." While a survey taken by Pace University found that people were generally happy with the process, a report released by Imagine New York found that most people aren't satisfied with the results. Addressing such critcism, the memorial jury broke its silence, when James Young, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, spoke at a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y. Young said that a negative reaction is unsurprising, given the challenge of commemorating and event of such magnitude.

As many as 20 guards in a Brooklyn federal prison abused detainees after 9/11, according to a Justice Department report released yesterday. The report recommended discipline for ten of the guards involved, and counseling for another two.

Friday, Dec 12

The first steel beam that will support the weight of office space at 7 World Trade Center was put in place Thursday, in an event attended by Governor George Pataki, and Freedom Tower architects Daniel Libeskind and David Childs. The governor set December 15, this upcoming Monday, as a deadline for the two to agree on a design. But their collaboration has reportedly ground to a halt, with the architects refusing to even speak to one another. Childs and Libeskind both tried to dispel those rumors yesterday, saying that they are working to reconcile their differences.

The current draft of the design reflects Childs' ideas much more than it does those of Libeskind. It depicts a twisting tower whose top section is an open framework of trusses and windmills, providing 20% of the building's power. By leaving the top floor unoccupied, this design avoids the potentially difficult task of trying to convince people to work in the tower's highest floors. While Childs' team claims that Libeskind has previously agreed to much of the plan, he does not seem to be doing so now, and the two are locked in a nasty power struggle. If a compromise proves impossible, development officials have discussed letting each team release its own design and seeing how the public reacts.

Libeskind's team took another hit this week, after several stories in the New York Post forced its urban planning consultant to step down. The Post quoted Gary Hack as saying that Libeskind had run a smear campaign to turn opinion against the competing THINK team's design. Hack said that the Post used his words out of context, but resigned nonetheless, citing "immense embarrassment."

The Fire Department swore in 292 firefighters Thursday, putting the number of firefighters above the number before 9/11, when the department lost 343 members. The current number of firefighters in New York City is now 8,660.

Friday, Dec 5

The jury for the memorial competition may take elements from more than one design, and choose something that looks little like any of the eight final designs, said Kevin Rampe, the president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation this week. This, reportedly, was not what the jury wanted. To avoid public scrutiny, several jurors originally hoped to make a final decision in secret instead of using the two-stage competition that is currently in place.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed to give a federal commission access to the transcripts of emergency calls made on 9/11. He originally refused, saying that such action would invade the privacy of victims' families. But with a federal subpoena looming, the mayor struck a deal that gives the commission total access to the transcripts while keeping the names of victims private.

Meanwhile, the mayor took heat for being too soft with the federal government on another issue -- money for security. Peter Vallone, the chairman of the City Council's public safety committee, demanded that the mayor present a plan for obtaining additional funding, while two former city officials asked that Rudolph Giuliani be sent to Washington to lobby for money on the city's behalf.

Monday, Dec 1

New Yorkers are still sorting through their reactions to the eight designs chosen as finalists in the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's competition to design the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. At 2:30PM this Friday, the Gotham Gazette will be holding a live online chat to discuss the memorial designs and process. We will have two guests: Rick Bell, the head of the American Institute of Architects' New York Chapter and Fred Bernstein, an architecture writer whose memorial design was picked as a finalist in the competition, but was later disqualified.

The PATH train station that was destroyed on 9/11 has reopened, after a renovation that took 16 months and cost $323 million. The station restores PATH service downtown for the first time since 9/11, and the clear walls of the underground station give New Yorkers their closest view yet of Ground Zero. It will eventually be replaced by a larger transit center being designed by Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava. The permanent station is slated to cost $2 billion and should open in 2006.

A federal compensation program for family members of 9/11 victims looks to be coming to an end, after an anonymous republican senator used an obscure congressional rule to put a hold on legislation that would extend it. New York Senator Charles Schumer has publicly asked that the unnamed opponent to the bill allow it to go through. Only about 60% of those eligible have filed for compensation through the program, which is set to expire on December 22. The city removed 40 names from the official tally of World Trade Center victims this week, bringing the number to 2,752. In updating the list, investigators found people alive who were believed to be dead and uncovered cases of fraud.

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