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Rebuilding NYC - Rebuilding Roundup Archive: May 2004

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Rebuilding Roundup Archive: May 2004

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Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, May 28

A design for the new Fulton Street Subway Station was presented to the public Wednesday. The station, on Broadway and Fulton, consists of a 110-foot tall glass cone protruding from a 50-foot tall glass cube. On its southern edge, the historic Corbin Building will be preserved as part of the structure, though several other buildings will have to be destroyed. In all, the station will incorporate 14 subway lines and a connection to the Ground Zero transportation hub. The $750 million project will be paid for entirely with federal rebuilding funds. (See Rebuilding NYC for a slide show of the new station)

City officials continue to reel from criticisms made by the 9/11 commission. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the commission doesn't understand how New York City works sufficiently enough to pass judgment. He continues to defend his plan for citywide coordination during major emergencies. Panel member John Lehman, whose combative comments during the hearing set off the emotional confrontation between the panel and the city, wrote in the New York Times that he was not criticizing specific city officials. He suggested that the city implement military-style communication among its rescue workers.

Two Con Edison power substations near Ground Zero were reactivated for the first time since 9/11 this week. The substations are enclosed in an 80-foot tall concrete casing at Seven World Trade Center, a structure which has been growing quickly in recent weeks. The new steel frame for the building, which was destroyed on September 11, is currently twenty stories high. It can be seen throughout lower Manhattan.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, May 21

In two days of hearings, the independent government commission investigating the 9/11 attacks scrutinized the rescue operation at the Twin Towers. At the onset of the hearings, the commission released a report describing the bravery of the individuals involved, but also the massive communication failures that hampered their efforts. The panel then heard testimony from 14 people, including former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who defended the city's rescue effort on 9/11, and current mayor Michael Bloomberg, who criticized the federal government for not giving the city ample aid.

City officials testified that they had not received information from the federal government about an attack using planes as missles, and that the scale of the disaster at the World Trade Center went beyond anything they had planned for. Several joined Mayor Bloomberg in saying that without additional federal aid, the city will not be able effectively plan for emergencies in the future. Tom Ridge, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, testified that he was working to change the formula that has left New York receiving less homeland security money per capita than almost anywhere in the nation.

For much of the hearing, commissioners focused on the shortcomings in Mayor Bloomberg's plan to coordinate emergency response between fire, police and other agencies. The mayor first presented the plan just days before the hearings began. Commissioners criticized it for being vague on the point that it needed to be the most clear on -- who would take charge in a major emergency operation. They joined others testifying in saying that turf battles between the police and fire departments posed the most serious obstacle to an effective emergency response plan in the future.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, May 14

The 9/11 Commission will be in New York City next week, for a round of hearings which will reconstruct what happened during the rescue effort on September 11, 2001, and explore how the city has prepared itself for future emergencies. Draft reports from the commission fault a lack of coordination between emergency management agencies as the major shortcoming on that day. Among those testifying will be former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, police commissioner Raymond Kelly, and fire commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta..

Yesterday, the commission also invited Mayor Michael Bloomberg to testify, after originally declining to do so. Bloomberg -- who has already met with the panel on one occasion -- has neither accepted nor declined the offer. A similar invitation has not been extended to any uniformed emergency workers, though, despite requests from unions representing firefighters and ambulance drivers. A commission spokesman said that it has already met extensively with rank and file rescue workers; union officials say the public hearings will be missing a crucial element by excluding those who worked at Ground Zero.

Over 10,000 workers have filed for some form of worker's compensation due to health problems stemming from September 11. Most have done so through the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. About 6,700 of the 8,000 claims filed with the state board have been resolved, though officials wouldn't say how many claims have favored workers. Lawyers involved in the proceedings say employers are challenging most of the claims.

Rebuilding Roundup for Friday, May 7

Governor George Pataki threw his support behind a rail link between lower Manhattan, the Long Island Rail Road, and JFK international airport in a speech on the progress of the rebuilding process this week. Pataki said that he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg want to build a new tunnel under the East River for the rail line, avoiding any interruption of existing service, and possibly providing access for a future 2nd Avenue subway. The Governor mentioned using remaining federal funds to pay for this tunnel -- which would cost $6 billion -- a plan many remain opposed to.

Pataki also said that that construction on the memorial at Ground Zero will start in 2006, and that a groundbreaking ceremony for the Freedom Tower will take place on July 4 -- ending any remaining speculation about this event taking place during the Republican National Convention.

A midtown public relations firm also said it would became the first private sector tenant for the Freedom Tower this week. But while plans for the Freedom Tower are firming up, the vision for the rest of Ground Zero seems endangered. A court decided that Larry Silverstein, the developer with rights to build at the site, is entitled to billions of dollars less in insurance money than he had hoped for. Several city newspapers speculated on how much this would limit development at Ground Zero; some questioned whether it was an appropriate chance to reassess a flawed plan for the site.

Also this week, a new report said that 9/11 was "the largest acute environmental disaster that ever has befallen New York City," and warned of serious long-term health effects for New Yorkers. The dust from the World Trade Center has lead to mesothelioma, a type of cancer, as well as increased asthma rates, the report said. Ground Zero cleanup workers were most affected, though office workers and residents in lower Manhattan may also be at risk for illness.

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