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Rebuilding NYC - Rebuilding Roundup Archive: March
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Rebuilding Roundup Archive: March

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Friday, March 29

John Whitehead, the chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is in charge of rebuilding downtown, announced at a breakfast forum on Tuesday that extensive underground construction at Ground Zero will delay any construction above ground for several years. He put his support behind a proposal to encourage the development of the biotech industry downtown to diversify the area economically. Whitehead also said there is general agreement within the Corporation that the two 110-story towers destroyed on Sept. 11 should not be duplicated but should be replaced by smaller, mixed-use buildings.

Such consensus over what kind of structures to build on the site falls in line with suggestions from a report released this week by the nation's leading engineering organization. The study, by the Construction Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, recommends that whatever is rebuilt on the World Trade Center site should be no more than 50 or 60 stories tall. Building skyscrapers over 100 stories tall and providing stairwells wide enough to accommodate mass evacuations would make the building unprofitable for real estate developers, according to the study.

Two other reports this week confirmed suspicions about why the towers fell and concerns about the mental health of Manhattan residents. A draft of a study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers shows that the towers survived the initial impacts of the planes, but eventually collapsed due to the effect of the fire and heat on the steel support structures. A report published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that tens of thousands of Manhattan residents suffered emotional difficulties severe enough to warrant psychiatric treatment.

Friday, March 22

The City Council announced a proposal that called for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to distribute grants to businesses smaller than ten people. Until now, most of the relief money has been geared towards larger companies, with smaller mom-and-pop businesses, which make up 70% of all business in Lower Manhattan, left ineligible to receive aid. This was demonstrated this week when the state and city began sending letters to companies like American Express and Goldman Sachs, offering them the first of millions of dollars of grants if they pledged to stay downtown.

Security was also a point of contention this week as officials argued over plans to reduce the twenty-four hour jet fighter patrols over the skies of New York City and begin random patrols based on threat levels. Senators and Representatives from New York criticized the Bush administration's cutbacks to security, noting that the twenty-four hour fighter patrols will still continue over Washington, D.C. White House officials replied that the patrols were putting a strain on the Air Force and that increases in airline security justified the reduction in combat flights. They did not specify when the reduction of flights would begin.

Relatives of the September 11 victims received some encouraging news this week with respect to the identification of victims. Early in the week officials made the first positive identification of a passenger from one of the two flights that struck the Twin Towers. They used DNA testing to confirm the identity of the passenger. The medical examiner's office announced that the DNA testing to identify the victims should be completed approximately eight months after the cleanup is finished, or early next year.

Friday, March 15

The Tribute in Light, a simulation by light beam of the Twin Towers, which can be seen for 20 miles, capped a nationwide day of remembrance on March 11th that marked six months since the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center.

The next day, it was back to the debate over rebuilding. On Tuesday, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced that next month it will release its first set of general plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center site; by June, the corporation said, it will supply the details. At this meeting, Chairman John Whitehead also repeated statements he has made before about the need to begin construction of 7 World Trade Center before developing the rest of the site, a point of view with which many residents and civic groups downtown disagree. The decision may ultimately be up to Larry Silverstein, who owns the lease on the building and wants to start building as early as June, and Whitehead's statement is another sign that the rebuilding authority may not stand in Silverstein's way.

On Thursday, Imagine New York, a project of the Municipal Art Society that will try to involve everyday citizens in the rebuilding process, held its first meeting with New Yorkers to discuss their ideas for rebuilding. City and state officials also announced that ferry service, which has been up since September 11, will be increased even more between Lower Manhattan and New Jersey.

But not everything is moving forward. The New York Immigration Coalition said that many low-wage immigrant workers and families of victims are still having trouble getting relief from charities and the government. And at Ground Zero, for all its increasing appearance as just another construction site, recovery workers pulled another seventeen bodies this week from the rubble.

Friday, March 8

Six months after September 11, there are signs that New York City is recovering and a renewed spirit of cooperation is emerging, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki. At a joint press conference on Lower Manhattan this week, they spoke of the pace of the cleanup and the efforts to make life more normal downtown through transportation improvements and the reopening of hotels and retail stores. They highlighted the efforts of government agencies at different levels to work together. At the same press conference, Pataki announced that Bloomberg would be allowed to appoint three new members of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is the agency in charge of rebuilding. Thus, the total number of members is now 14, half appointed by the governor, half appointed by the mayor (though four of those were appointed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani).

In commemoration of the six-month anniversary, family groups and residents of Battery Park City came to an agreement with city officials on the unveiling of the two interim memorials set for March 11. While the "Tribute of Light" will stay in Battery Park City, the "Sphere" memorial, which includes a sculpture that previously resided in the plaza of the World Trade Center, will be placed in Battery Park, further away from Ground Zero.

The White House also appeared to be in a cooperative mood, with the Bush administration agreeing to increase the amount of federal aid promised to New York City to $21.3 billion and also agreeing to increase payments to victims' families from the September 11th Compensation Fund.

All was not so positive this week. Earlier in the week, city officials complained that they should have been informed by the federal government of a potential New York City nuclear bomb threat. And despite the signs of recovery downtown, the state's Department of Labor issued a report saying that in 2001, New York City suffered its worst job loss since 1991.

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