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Rebuilding NYC - Rebuilding Roundup Archive: June
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Rebuilding Roundup Archive: June

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Friday, June 28

Ground Zero has now become one of the city's top tourism spots. According to the Downtown Alliance, a Lower Manhattan business group, the observation deck of the World Trade Center used to attract an average of 1.8 million people a year. Ground Zero is currently on pace to attract 3.6 million visitors this year, a figure that would rival the attendance figures for the Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In a move that will no doubt encourage more visitors, the city has reopened Liberty Street west of Greenwich Street to pedestrians. The view from there gives visitors a closer look at Ground Zero without waiting in line for tickets. Separated only by concrete barriers and a chain-link fence, pedestrians can see workers constructing scaffolding and working on the new tunnels for the Nos. 1 and 9 subway lines. The Liberty Street viewing area is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Nearly a month after the city held a ceremony marking the official closing of Ground Zero, the last recovery crew actually left the World Trade Center site. Four firefighters made up the last team of workers dedicated to finding human remains at Ground Zero. They completed their search of the Bankers Trust building and marked the end of the recovery effort without fanfare. While construction crews will continue to reinforce the underground walls at the World Trade Center site, the search for human remains is now over.

Friday, June 21

The rebuilding at the World Trade Center site may extend beyond the sixteen acres that make up Ground Zero and may include housing, according to comments made this week by Lou Tomson, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of the Port Authority. The two said that at least 34 acres of land - including the World Trade Center site, a stretch of West St. and other nearby buildings - are being considered. Furthermore, while the Port Authority is legally prohibited from constructing housing, the two agencies are exploring options to convert some of the already-existing space in nearby buildings into housing.

A plan to boost the downtown economy by luring a major corporation to Lower Manhattan fell apart this week, to the dismay of city officials and downtown businesses. KPMG, the world's third-largest accounting firm, was slated to move into space owned by Lehman Brothers at 3 World Financial Center, a tower across the street from the World Trade Center. Lehman Brothers, which moved from that space to Midtown after September 11, decided to sell the space instead of leasing to a new tenant.

Last weekend, the city and Deutsche Bank came to an agreement on searching for human remains in a skyscraper at the edge of Ground Zero owned by the bank. The building, known as the Bankers Trust building, is the last one at Ground Zero to be searched for bodies from the September 11 attacks. Since September 11, a fungus infestation within the building has caused health concerns, and until now Deutsche Bank had refused to allow recovery workers inside the building. Under the agreement, firefighters and other recovery crews will wear protective jumpsuits and respirators, and debris recovered from the building will be placed into sealed bags and examined in detail only after it has reached the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island.

Finally, Mayor Bloomberg announced this week that he is accepting suggestions for commemorating the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The city has set up a website, voice-mail system and mailbox to receive ideas for the one-year memorial. To make suggestions about the ceremony, you can call (212) 788-7799 during business hours, or log on to the city's web site to submit an idea online. Letters can be mailed to: September 11th Memorial Anniversary, City Hall, New York, N.Y. 10007. Comments are due by July 31. Gotham Gazette is also accepting ideas for the one-year tribute. To submit an idea, you can send an email to [email protected]. We will post the results online in August.

Friday, June 14

This week, more remains were found at the World Trade Center site, only days after an official ceremony marked the end of the cleanup and recovery effort. Fire Department and construction workers found remains of a dozen people after searching two buildings on the edge of the site at 90 West Street and 130 Cedar Street. Authorities had suspected that more remains would be found in those buildings, but had put off the search until workers had completed sifting through the rubble of the main World Trade Center site.

Recovery workers have been intent on searching another building at the edge of the site, the Bankers Trust building at 130 Liberty Street. However, gaping holes in the facade of the building have opened it up to a significant mold and fungus infestation, and Deutsche Bank, which owns the building, refuses to allow recovery workers inside until environmental tests on the fungus are completed. Victims' families are angered at the company's decision to refuse entry to recovery workers, while Mayor Bloomberg has said that it is reasonable to be cautious.

As the search for remains continues, the stress of September 11 continues to have tragic results for those who were among the closest to the site. A paramedic who worked at Ground Zero committed suicide this week, the second to do so since January. That prompted the city's paramedics union to call on the Fire Department to implement mandatory counseling for those who worked at Ground Zero. Meanwhile, at a Congressional hearing downtown about the mental health needs of children after September 11, several experts said that children traumatized by the attacks are not getting adequate mental health care.

Finally, there were a number of ideas for rebuilding downtown highlighted this past week. The Municipal Art Society released a report detailing the final recommendations for rebuilding from their Imagine New York workshops, which were held throughout the city and region earlier this year. Their suggestions included memorials for September 11 throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, a cultural and performing arts center and more green space downtown. Mayor Bloomberg drew criticism from victims' families when he said that the site should not be turned into "a cemetary" and that the size of a memorial built at the site should not overshadow the needs of downtown residents and businesses. And one of the proposals being considered by the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation for a transportation hub downtown calls for tearing down an entire block of buildings at Broadway between Fulton Street and John Street.

Friday, June 7

Last Sunday, about 900 relatives of those killed in the World Trade Center attack said goodbye one last time at Ground Zero during a private ceremony. The tribute began with a pipe-and-drum performance of "Amazing Grace" and ended with the blessing of the site by religious leaders. The memorial service was organized as an alternative to the larger ceremony that took place three days before, with a weekend date more accomodating for victims' relatives.

While officials have announced that the recovery and cleanup have concluded, an environmental report from the state makes it clear that there is still much cleaning left to do. According to an environmental impact report made public this week by the Empire State Development Corporation, the collapse of the 47-story tower at 7 World Trade Center resulted in the release of 130,000 gallons of oil from the Consolidated Edison substation into the ground beneath the building. Workers at the site have already started a two-phase cleanup program developed with the state Department of Environmental Conservation which will remove soil up to 27 feet deep at the site. Construction workers began excavating the land a few weeks ago to prepare for the rebuilding of a new 7 World Trade Center.

Health issues were on the minds of hundreds of demonstrators from Chinatown and the Lower East Side who rallied at Foley Square this week. Undocumented immigrants and low-wage garment workers protested the lack of health assistance for those suffering respiratory problems in their neighborhoods. The demonstrators also criticized emergency relief organizations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for not doing enough to provide assistance to low-income workers affected by the World Trade Center attacks.

Two notable ideas were mentioned for rebuilding at the World Trade Center this week. One plan under consideration by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation calls for the construction of expandable office buildings. Such buildings would be built up to a height of eight stories or less, with the option to add more floors to the building if necessary. The concept has already been used in New York City for the headquarters of the Hearst Corporation, which was initially built seven stories high, but will now have 36 floors added to it. Meanwhile, architects hired by the leaseholder of the site, developer Larry Silverstein, have drawn up plans for a 110-story office tower. While the bottom 60 floors would consist of office space, the top third of the building would be an empty transparent shell.

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