rebuilding the World Trade Center. Specifically it will discuss the rebuilding of Ground Zero after the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks of September 11, 2001, including who are the decision makers, what is the process, and who has involvement in the process. It will also look at the cost, who is paying, the timeline, current status, what the final project will look like, who will benefit, the effect on New York City, surrounding boroughs, and the state. Almost as soon as cleanup began at the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks, there was speculation on what kind of building or memorial could possibly replace the Twin Towers. Today, designs for a new office complex and memorial have been chosen, and some expect construction on at least one of the buildings replacing the WTC could be complete by 2009. As with any large project, the plans have faced adversity, controversy, and just plain criticism. What is the affect of rebuilding in lower Manhattan on the city, the borough, the state, the people, and the world? We know the human cost of the terrorist attacks. Now, the city must calculate the monetary cost of rebuilding, and how it will affect the Big Apple.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the area in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers had once stood came to be known as “Ground Zero.” As one writer notes shortly after the attacks, “In addition to the carnage of nearly 3,000 lost lives, the World Trade Center attacks destroyed or severely damaged nearly 30 million square feet of office and retail space in Lower Manhattan, forcing 100,000 of the area’s workers to relocate to other areas” (Godfrey). Almost immediately, even as cleanup and recovery was still going on, people began to wonder what could ever replace the Twin Towers in the skyline of Manhattan, and where displaced workers would find new office space and even new employment in some cases. Some people felt the area was “hallowed ground” and rebuilding on the site should never occur. Others wanted a memorial or a cathedral on the spot, and little else. In the end, a design incorporating both memorial and office space won out. Chosen in 2003, two design teams were chosen, one for the buildings and one for a memorial. The design for the new buildings is known as the “Freedom Tower” and was designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind. The design for the memorial is known as “Reflecting Absence” and was designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker (“Information”). A Washington reporter notes about the building design, “The Libeskind plan, a media favorite from the beginning, features a spire of ‘vertical gardens’ installed in what would be the world’s tallest man-made structure, at 1,776 feet. It would also preserve as a memorial the exposed bedrock of the Trade Center foundation, which is a gaping hole at ground zero” (Trotta A03). Another writer states, “The central focus of his rebuilding is a huge spire, whose height, at 1,776 feet, neatly reflects the sacred year of the Declaration of Independence. Democracy and freedom, Libeskind declares, must be enshrined in every inch of the Ground Zero rebuild” (Millard 45). It is easy to see, with these bold sentiments, how Lebeskind’s plan won out. However, choosing the winning designs is simply one element of an intricate and often controversial plan that will take years, if not decades, to build and complete.
The process of choosing what to rebuild at Ground Zero, as can be imagined, is complicated and quite lengthy. Shortly after the attacks, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki created the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), whose mission is to “plan and coordinate the rebuilding and revitalization of Lower Manhattan, defined as everything south of Houston Street. The LMDC is a joint State-City corporation governed by a 16-member Board of Directors, half appointed by the Governor of New York and half by the Mayor of New York” (“Lower Manhattan”). It is this group of public and private board members who are coordinating the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, including the Ground Zero site. They are working closely with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), who administered the site from the beginning when the first Twin Towers were built. There are also many other organizations that formed to help plan and create a new vision for Lower Manhattan. They include “New York New Visions” (engineers, planners and architects), “Rebuild Downtown Our Town” (planners, architects and residents) and “Team Twin Towers” (a grassroots campaign to rebuild them as they were0, and an activist New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (Nobel 49).
The group also works closely with several different advisory councils, including a neighborhood residents’ advisory council and a families’ advisory council, made up of families who lost members in the attacks. The LMDC and the Port Authority are the two entities who chose the winning designs that will be used to rebuild Ground Zero, and they created the process and competition that took place to choose the winners. From the beginning, the designs had to conform to certain ideas and elements that came from public input and debate. These elements included “preserving the footprints of the Twin Towers for memorial purposes, restoring a powerful symbol in the Lower Manhattan skyline, the need for additional public spaces including parks and plazas, a grand promenade along West Street, and greater connectivity with the World Trade Center site and surrounding neighborhoods” (“Information”). Thus, there were many criteria for each design to meet, and these criteria were quite important to the public who live and work in the surrounding area. This indicates that the final project will have an impact on more than just Ground Zero, it will impact the city, and ultimately even the state, by bringing in new revenue, new construction revenues, and new areas for the public to enjoy, and visit — even encouraging tourism.
Throughout the process, the LMDC has been committed to creating an atmosphere where the public are free to voice their opinions and objections to the project. The design competition began in 2002, and LMDC held an event in July, 2002 called “Listening to the City,” which allowed over 5,000 residents to discuss the plans for rebuilding and voice their opinions. The LMDC Web Site notes, “Engaging the public in an ongoing redevelopment dialogue has allowed LMDC to formulate and refine its overall planning goals for the World Trade Center site and, more broadly, for Lower Manhattan” (“Lower Manhattan”). Thus, the process has always looked to the public for ideas and solutions, but some residents still have problems with the plans for redevelopment and rebuilding. In addition, while much of the focus of the rebuilding is on the Ground Zero site, there are numerous plans for the surrounding area to help revitalize and modernize the downtown area surrounding Ground Zero. Mayor Bloomberg laid out a plan for the entire area, beginning at Battery Park and extending through the Ground Zero area and beyond, that includes parks, open spaces, improved transportation above and below ground, business districts, historical preservation of older buildings, and cultural institutions, along with improved residential areas that welcome residents and visitors alike (Bloomberg). This plan will not happen overnight, but combined with the new Ground Zero projects, it could revitalize an area that his been deteriorating for many years.
Initially, there were nine major plans in competition for the rebuilding project, and the memorial design was a separate competition. The LMDC exhibited the nine plans at areas throughout New York, and took public comments on the designs before choosing the winner in February 2003. The memorial design was chosen in January 2004. However, many feel the results of the competition were flawed. The LMDC actually leaned toward another finalist for the building design, the “THINK” design by Raphael Vinoly and Frederic Schwartz. Much of the public supported this project, too. However, the final design was chosen by politicians, not the LMDC group. Another writer notes, “Yet, belying repeated assurances about the ‘open’ and ‘democratic’ character of the process of deliberations on the future of Ground Zero, New York Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose to ignore the LMDC recommendation and go with the Libeskind design anyway” (Rosenthal). While the LMDC Web Site and others announce the competition was a result of popular demand and approval, there are many who believe it was political and benefits the city and the state more than the people and Lower Manhattan. Recent developments have cast a shadow on the entire process, which is now being redesigned due to several different issues. Another architectural writer feels the choice of architects was as flawed as the redevelopment agency itself. He writes, “The result was an incoherent program and the selection of a wildly inappropriate architect” (Lewis). With the current status of the design up in the air, it seems he may have been all too right in his assessment.
There are other problems swirling around the project, too. Many people believe that it will take at least ten to twelve years to rebuild, and there are other roadblocks in the rebuilding process that will have to be overcome. The LMDC faces stiff opposition from the developer of the Twin Towers, who still holds the lease to the building site. Reporter Trotta continues,
Of particular worry to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. is Larry A. Silverstein, the developer who holds the lease to the property. Mr. Silverstein has charged that rebuilding officials are not acknowledging his right to rebuild the site the way he deems fit. In a letter to Development Corp. Chairman John C. Whitehead last week, Mr. Silverstein said none of the designs for the site meets the city’s rebuilding requirements or its need for downtown office space. For safety reasons, he argued, no building should be more than 65 or 70 stories high. Mr. Silverstein also indicated that he could make the rebuilding process difficult, perhaps impossible, and that he and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, have fundamental disagreements (Trotta A03).
In addition, members of the community, both residents and businesspeople, also have distinct ideas about how the area should be rebuilt, and what the role of the Ground Zero site should be to the area.
Many people felt the initial plans were not sentimental enough, and did not fully recognize those who were killed during the attacks and in rescue attempts. These writers note that one architect looked over the first six plans accepted by LMDC and said, “These plans are all driven by hard economics. There’s no heart in them and no recognition of what we all had been led to believe would occur, that we would wind up with something wonderful on this site'” (Chermak, Bailey, and Brown 149). The winning design came from a Berlin, Germany architect, which also stirred controversy in the area, because many residents felt the design should come from an American firm.
In addition, a recent May meeting between LMDC, lessee Silverstein, and the PANYNJ came to the conclusion that the design must be redrafted to address certain New York Police Department safety and security issues. The “Information to Build On” Web Site notes, “Larry Silverstein’s team, led by architect David Childs, will work closely with the NYPD in coming weeks to create a new design for the building, which will take into consideration security concerns while retaining essential elements of the original design, including the tower’s symbolic 1,776-foot height” (“Information”). Thus, the competition results, which still play a prominent role on the LMDC Web Site, seem to be moot, and the Freedom Tower may become a conglomeration of new design ideas and functions. The “Information” Web Site also notes new design information will be posted as soon as it becomes available. The original design incorporates new streets to break up the large block feeling of the area, public plazas and open spaces, four large towers instead of two taller tower buildings, and will include about 10 million square feet of commercial floor space in the combined tower units. It will be interesting to see how much of the original design remains, and what part the surrounding infrastructure of Manhattan will play into the new design.
How will all of this rebuilding be funded, and who will ultimately bear the cost of recreating the World Trade Center in new, dynamic form? Current NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg estimates the cost will run about 10.6 billion dollars. The LMDC activities and operations are funded by a Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There is also a memorial foundation which is raising funds to complete the WTC memorial and two cultural buildings for the Ground Zero site. The City of New York, spearheaded by Mayor Bloomberg, proposed a tax incentive called the “World Trade Center Tax Incentive Zone,” which would provide tax incentives for foreign companies who relocated to this so-called “Liberty Zone.” Some of the proceeds would eventually trickle down to building projects, and the mayor also suggested using tax-free Liberty Bonds for additional construction funds. The mayor also notes that the City received many federal funds, and he projects about $5.9 billion of those funds could be used for reconstruction. There may also be some insurance proceeds, some funding from the PANYNJ, and construction taxes from the site and surrounding areas. He notes, “In summary, we might not need any additional funds. But if we do, there’s always the potential of federal or state monies — monies we won’t need until 2009 at the earliest” (Bloomberg). However, more recent estimates place the cost at a much higher number than Bloomberg’s estimates. A transportation and restructuring expert notes, “The entire $21 billion project, including rebuilding the World Trade Center, will span 10 years” (Chandler 28). Thus, some of the funding, like the design itself, seems up in the air, and the people of New York may eventually have to bear at least some of the costs of recreating the WTC and enhancing downtown Manhattan.
Because of the redesign, the timeline for completing the project has also been revised. Construction on a new PATH train terminal has already begun, as has the new Fulton Street Transit Center, and other short-term revitalization projects throughout the downtown area have also begun, including a NYC street management and streetscaping program, a New York Stock Exchange security and enhancement program, several parks and open space enhancements and new construction, pedestrian connections for West Street, and a new high school called “Millennium High School” (“Information”). There is also a study underway to create a link to JFK Airport, and plans are underway for a new, complete transportation hub at the Ground Zero site. Underground work and site preparation work has already begun at the site, and several other surrounding buildings are already under construction or nearing completion. For example, the 7 World Trade Center building, which was the last to fall after the attacks, is being rebuilt as a 52-story office tower that will be completed in 2006. The Deutsch Bank Building at 130 Liberty Street, which was also severely damaged during the attacks, now belongs to the LDMC, who will tear down what is left of the building this year, and use the land as part of the new design for the Freedom Tower. The LDMC oversees the Lower Manhattan Transit Recovery Project (LMTRC), which is in charge of rebuilding the entire transit infrastructure in the area.
It is clear that Manhattan, New York City, the boroughs nearby, and the State of New York will all benefit when Ground Zero is redeveloped. The vision for the downtown area is a full vision that incorporates transportation, infrastructure, parks and open spaces, schools and cultural venues, pedestrian-friendly plazas and streets, and more open space between buildings and other structures. The urban design is comprehensive and cognitive, and would create a much more pleasant environment for work, play, and residential use. The entire area will benefit from a makeover, and the city would hope to see increased revenues from taxes, businesses, and tourism. The state would also share in some of these revenues. While it seems that everyone may profit from this rebuilding, it seems there are certainly those who will not.
Those who may not profit from the rebuilding could be the citizens of New York, especially if they have to foot the bill for ever increasing costs as the project stalls due to red tape and redesign issues. The longer the project is put off, the more expensive it will become. In addition, the longer it stalls; the less revenue, taxes, and jobs will flow into the city. Other losers include those people who wanted to rebuild the Twin Towers in their original footprint and height, as a symbol of American spirit and freedom. One writer notes the idea did not take too long to disappear. She states, “In the anguish of destruction, many thought the twin towers should be rebuilt as tall as the original structures in defiance of al Qeada. The folly of that idea was captured in a cartoon of the new structure with a bull’s eye painted on the top floors” (Fields A21). Those who believe the area should remain as it is as a constant reminder of what happened there will never be happy when rebuilding does take place, and they may feel that the entire country has lost something irreplaceable and emotional by recreating an office park on the site. As another writer notes, “On the other hand, one might plausibly argue that this land had forever been rendered ‘hallowed ground’ akin to the battlefields of Gettysburg or Omaha Beach” (Lewis). Clearly, the rebuilders won out, but many people believe that the choice of Libeskind as the designer was a mistake, and perhaps that is why Silverstein and his concerns eventually won out over the New York choice.
As for the roles of the three major politicians in the rebuilding, there are some very interesting and questionable practices in setting up the LMDC. Many people believe Governor Pataki saw a chance to advance his reelection bid. One writer states,
Governor George Pataki has built himself a wonderful catbird seat from which to turn the process to his political advantage in this re-election year. He loaded the board of the LMDC, made it subsidiary to the Empire State Development Corporation (which he already controls) and left it to hash out prerogatives with the ambiguously empowered owners of the site, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Nobel 49).
Mayor Bloomberg also helped create his vision of a new redevelopment plan in the area, and seems to think that most of the costs will not be passed on to New York residents. His role in the rebuilding is significant because he helped choose the winning design, and he continues as mayor while the project continues development.
As for ex-mayor Giuliani, his involvement was crucial at the beginning, but he left office only a few months after the attacks, and so, his involvement has been minimal since then. The mayor did argue for protecting the site before he left office. Writer Nobel continues, “Rudolph Giuliani, that once and likely future redevelopment power player, made the first significant appeal for protecting the full site nine months ago in his final speech as mayor, and again recently in an essay for Time” (Nobel 49). Currently, Giuliani is working as an attorney and consultant in New York City.
Finally, it is clear that rebuilding Ground Zero is an emotional and controversial issue that can benefit many, but may end up only benefiting a select few. The Ground Zero project represents the best of American spirit and strength, but if it is not properly maintained and administered, the results could become a lingering nightmare that will sully the location of one of America’s worst tragedies. The developers must take care to create buildings that will not only withstand terrorist attacks, but withstand the criticism of critics. Developing a sound and workable urban plan that includes input from the surrounding area residents and businesses, and takes into account uses for the future will help create a rebuilding project that is not only viable, but also workable, useable, and oriented toward the present and the future goals for the site.
Bloomberg, Michael. “Mayor Bloomberg’s Vision for Lower Manhattan.” LowerManhattan.info. 12 Dec. 2002. 11 May 2005.
Chandler, Dahna M. “World Trade Recovery: Black CPA Firm Snares Post-9/11 Contract to Help Rebuild New York’s Ground Zero Area.” Black Enterprise Mar. 2004: 28.
Chermak, Steven, Frankie Y. Bailey, and Michelle Brown, eds. Media Representations of September 11. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.
Editors. “Information to Build On.” LowerManhattan.info. 2005. 11 May 2005.
Editors. “Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.” Renewnyc.com. 2005. 11 May 2005.
Fields, Suzanne. “Secular Cathedral for Ground Zero; Echoes of God and Man in Winning Design.” The Washington Times 6 Mar. 2003: A21.
Godfrey, Brian J. “Tragedy and Transformation in New York City.” The Geographical Review 92.1 (2002): 127+.
Lewis, Michael J. “All Sail, No Anchor’: Architecture after Modernism.” New Criterion Dec. 2003: 4+.
Millard, Rosie. “To Rebuild Ground Zero, Libeskind Canvassed World Opinion. He Got 60 Million E-Mails!.” New Statesman 14 July 2003: 45.
Nobel, Philip. “Map to Ground Zero: How Do You Build Anything at This Site and Divorce It from the Culture of ‘9/11’?.” The Nation 23 Sept. 2002: 49.
Rice, Andrew. “The Commerce of Commemoration.” The Nation 31 Jan. 2005: 25.
Rosenthal, John. “The Future of Ground Zero: Daniel Libeskind’s Perverse Vision.” Policy Review (2004): 3+.
Trotta, Liz. “Two Finalists Chosen in Rebuilding WTC Site; Both Would Erect Tallest Structures.” The Washington Times 5 Feb. 2003: A03.
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