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Rebuilding NYC - Rebuilding Roundup Archive: January 2004

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Rebuilding Roundup Archive: February 2004

Previous Roundups

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, February 27

Deutsche Bank reached an agreement yesterday with insurers and rebuilding officials that will lead to the demolition of the 40-story skyscraper just south of Ground Zero. Removing the building, which is uninhabitable and now covered in a huge black curtain, has long been part of the plan for Ground Zero. Yesterday's deal calls for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to buy the property for $90 million, and take over the $45 million contract to demolish it. The space will be used for a park, and possibly office space and parking facilities.

Larry Silverstein has already spent $1.3 billion of the insurance money he received for the destruction of the World Trade Center. About half of that money went to buy out his lender, GMAC, the retail leaseholder for the property. Silverstein spent an additional $100 million on a legal dispute with his insurers. It will cost as much as $9 billion to rebuild the office and retail space at Ground Zero; the most Silverstein expects to receive from insurance is $7 billion.

State, federal, and law enforcement agencies nationwide will soon be able to share information instantaneously using a counter-terrorism computer system called the Homeland Security Information Network. The secure network will allow law enforcement officials to instantly relay possible leads, threat assessments and other information with 5,000 authorized users. Sharing information, said Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge, who announced the program this week, is the country's most effective tool against future terrorist attacks.

Yesterday marked the 11th anniversary of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Survivors of the attack and family members of its victims were shown a design for a temporary memorial, which will replace the one destroyed on 9/11 until Reflecting Absence is completed. It has not been decided where the temporary shrine, a nine foot tall steel column sitting on top of a piece of granite from the destroyed memorial, will be placed.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, February 20

All 5,201 designs entered into the Ground Zero memorial design competition were put on display yesterday, via the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's memorial web site. Many have been asking for such a step since the eight finalist designs presented last November met heavy criticism. Meanwhile, the struggle over how names will be presented on the chosen memorial continues to fester, with a Lower Manhattan Development Corporation board member saying he would continue to work against the distinction of rescue workers' names.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation also gave New Yorkers their first chance to express concerns about the effect that the development of Ground Zero will have on the environment this week, at a public hearing to review the environmental impact statement for the site. The hearing, which gave each of the more than 100 attendees three minutes to speak about their concerns, turned into a wide-ranging critique of the plan for Ground Zero and its impact on the environment, the pace of redevelopment and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation itself. The agency is accepting comments on the 2,000 page document until March 15.

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards attacked the Bush administration yesterday of exploiting 9/11 by having the Republican National Convention in New York City. Speaking at Columbia University, Edwards said that Bush had tried to give the impression that he was helping post 9/11 New York, but in fact had stiffed police officers and firefighters by not adequately funding New York's security needs. A spokesperson for the Bush campaign responded by saying that Edwards was "playing politics with a national tragedy."

Several high ranking officials in the Bush administration did agree this week to speak with the 9/11 commission, the federal panel investigating the attacks. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet said that they would testify in public at hearings in late March. The commission had hoped that President George Bush would do the same, but he and Vice President Dick Cheney have said that they would speak with the commission, but only behind closed doors. Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore will also meet privately with the panel.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, February 13

The Bush administration agreed to give the 9/11 Commission, a federal panel investigating the September 11 attacks, additional access to classified intelligence briefings which the Central Intelligence Agency prepared for President Bush before September 11, 2001. This week, the commission also questioned Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security advisor. It is now seeking public testimony from President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as former president Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore.

A federal trial over how much money insurance companies should pay to developer Larry Silverstein because of 9/11 -- the largest insurance case of its kind ever tried -- began this week. Silverstein, who argues that the attacks on the North and South Tower were separate events, believes he is entitled to $7 billion. But his insurers insist that 9/11 was a single attack, and therefore that Silverstein should get only $3.5 billion.

Fifteen cultural institutions were named by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as the 'short-list' being considered to occupy the performing arts center, the 9/11 museum and other cultural spaces at Ground Zero. Among those being considered are the New York City Opera, the Signature Theater Company, and the New York Historical Society.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, February 6

George Bush, in a change from his earlier position, said he supports an extension of the deadline for the federal commission investigating the 9/11 attacks to present a final report. The president said that he would not oppose pushing the report back two months from the current deadline of May 27. This would mean that the report would be published at a crucial time in the presidential elections, making it a hot political issue. Some family members of 9/11 victims have said that this is not enough time, and would like to see a post-election deadline for the report.

The president also announced this week that the amount of money set aside for security for high-risk urban areas would be almost doubled to $1.44 billion. But while Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the increase, other New York officials complained that the program itself had been watered down. Originally, seven high-risk cities were identified as eligible for this money -- now over 50 qualify. The best New York can expect to receive is about $94 million.

Federal rebuilding money is one of several sources of funding being considered to pay for a direct rail connection between Long Island, JFK and Lower Manhattan. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Port Authority, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority presented four options for creating such a connection this week.

All four would make stop at Jamaica Center in Queens, Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, and then move into Lower Manhattan. The plans differ in terms of how they would get trains across the East River. Three call for the use of existing tunnels -- something commuter groups claim is not possible without serious inconvenience to straphangers. The fourth plan would construct a new tunnel, more expensive but possibly less disruptive. A final design will be picked in April.

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