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Thread: From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

  1. #1

    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/03/nyregion/03REBU.html

    From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero
    By EDWARD WYATT


    Just weeks after the World Trade Center attack, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki began to imagine the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, and they immediately saw two problems.

    The first was Mark Green, the leading candidate for mayor, a Democrat, and a man neither Republican officeholder could abide. As mayor, he would assert significant influence over the rebuilding effort.

    The second was Mr. Pataki's own re-election bid the following year. Appearing to exert too much control over the rebuilding effort would leave Mr. Pataki vulnerable to charges of manipulating the city's grief to his political ends.

    That is why on Nov. 2, 2001, four days before New Yorkers went to the polls to choose the mayor who would see the city through the first phase of rebuilding, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pataki announced that the effort would be directed by a new agency, the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation. The agency would help dole out billions of dollars in federal aid to the city and oversee the effort to create a fitting memorial to the victims.

    The creation of that corporation set off what could have been any government operation — a plodding, obtuse process run by bureaucrats with little public participation. Instead, it evolved into a grand public discussion about architecture, public space and the nature of memory.

    A confluence of factors produced that result, from the political races to New Yorkers' apparent need to work out their grief by reconstructing something that had been lost. But the greatest factor, it seems, was essentially a large misunderstanding — the public's perception of an initial round of designs for the site that looked like little more than white blobs on a map.

    From the beginning, it was clear that the governor would control the endeavor. He appointed 7 of the corporation's 11 board members, including its chairman, and it became a subsidiary of Empire State Development, the state's economic development agency, run by one of the governor's closest allies. Another Pataki confidant, Louis R. Tomson, was appointed president, overseeing the corporation's day-to-day operations.

    It was not surprising, then, that last week, nearly 16 months later, Mr. Pataki lobbied for and ultimately secured the selection of his preferred choice, Studio Daniel Libeskind, as the architect for the rebuilding of the trade center.

    Yet while Mr. Pataki has exerted major influence over the initial rebuilding effort, the evolution of the agency, known later as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, is far from a cut-and-dried case of political muscle.

    In between its founding and last week's decision, it transformed itself into an agency with its own momentum, engaging the public in an architectural project of immense scope in ways public policy experts never imagined.

    "Our greatest challenge has been to restore a sense of optimism to a city still suffering from a savage attack, and to create a planning process to address the wishes of so many stakeholders," Mr. Tomson said at a news conference to unveil the winning design. "There were many times when reaching consensus seemed nearly impossible, and we certainly made mistakes along the way."

    The effect of the process on life in the city, too, was so unusual that it was sometimes disorienting. Bartenders debated the merits of Mr. Libeskind's design with customers. Rafael Viñoly, the second-place architect, was discussed on talk radio. At the World Financial Center, tens of thousands of families, students, young professionals and tourists viewed an exhibition of architectural models, the tiny balsa-wood streetscapes normally seen only in the offices of developers and condominium salespeople.

    That outcome did not seem likely on Nov. 29, 2001, when the development corporation's board was introduced. Heavy with business and financial types, it had but one representative of the downtown residents, small businesses and cultural institutions that were hardest hit by the attack's economic fallout.

    "At least we got one," said that representative, Madelyn Wils, the chairwoman of Community Board 1, whose responsibilities include the trade center site. "I intend to be a loud voice."

    Others, too, began to raise their voices. Michael R. Bloomberg, who had defeated Mr. Green in the mayoral race, and who had opposed the formation of the development agency during his campaign, established himself as both an ally and a counterweight to Mr. Pataki, and gained a greater role for the city. John C. Whitehead, the development agency's chairman, and Roland W. Betts, one of its directors, stepped into a void created by Mr. Pataki's public detachment. Mr. Whitehead began to reassure downtown business leaders that the corporation would be free from political pressures, a statement Mr. Pataki's staff members said they could have lived without. And Mr. Betts, known to many of the city's power brokers as a personal friend of President Bush's, emerged as one of the board's most active members, overseeing its site-planning committee.

    Throughout the winter and early spring, the development corporation was in what Mr. Whitehead referred to as "listening mode," meeting with advisory committees and groups of residents, commuters, business people and others. But as the cleanup of the trade center site progressed faster than expected, concerns surfaced that once the recovery was complete, New York would be left with a vast hole and no plan to fill it.

    To alter that perception, the corporation published an outline of its rebuilding goals in April that called for critical changes to the downtown area's transportation systems, economy and traffic patterns for pedestrians and automobiles.

    New Yorkers responded with an outpouring of opinion, challenged some of the assumptions that rebuilding officials had adopted. In January, for example, Mr. Whitehead said that another 100-story building on the site would not be practical or appropriate. But at a public hearing in May, the overwhelming message was to put up tall towers.

    Several architects in the last round of the design competition proposed just that, and Mr. Libeskind's plan includes a building with a restaurant at the 110th floor, although commercial offices would stop at about the 70th floor.

    By late spring, most rebuilding officials had agreed to a general outline that re-established Greenwich and Fulton Streets through the trade center site, cutting its 16 acres into four parts. The southwest quadrant, where the twin towers had stood, was thought by many to be the logical place for a memorial.

    Such a plan would allow significant space for a memorial, therefore thwarting arguments by some victims' relatives that the entire site should be left untouched. The remaining three quadrants could accommodate commercial development, restoring an income stream for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

    In July, Mr. Pataki made it so. In the heat of his re-election bid and just before the first site plans were unveiled, he told a forum of family members, "We will never build where the towers stood," all but sealing the decision that the memorial would be in that southwest quadrant.

    Days later, a first set of plans, developed by the architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, was unveiled at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street. Even before the plans became public, however, rebuilding officials recognized that they were uninspired. Mr. Whitehead said that if they did not create "the kind of beautiful center that we want this to be, then we will change our plans."

    The plans were overwhelmingly rejected, but not necessarily because they were so different from what was ultimately embraced. The criticism voiced most often at a meeting of 4,500 people at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was not that the land-use plans were faulty, but that the building models were ugly.

    The Beyer Blinder Belle plans were presented in a uniform fashion, using what architects call massing models — nondescript white blocks that represent buildings. Rather than try to portray architecture, they are simply functional, and they made the plans look uniformly bland.

    The development agency's learned a critical lesson from the July experience: the public responds less to concepts than to concrete models. A second round of designs was prepared by seven new teams of architects who were encouraged to include dazzling graphics and models.

    Nearly all their efforts, including that of Mr. Libeskind, took the same four-quadrant approach to the site. But this time the architects challenged the imagination of New Yorkers with odd-shaped buildings, public spaces 70 floors above ground, and conceptual approaches to the memorial that went beyond the design limits that had been set out.

    When the plans were unveiled, the first to present his design was Mr. Libeskind. When he finished, a smattering of polite applause began, then crescendoed to a roar, signaling that someone had found a way to capture the essence of the tragedy of ground zero and the hope of a rebuilt, and recovered, Lower Manhattan.

  2. #2

    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    "Our greatest challenge has been to restore a sense of optimism to a city still suffering from a savage attack, and to create a planning process to address the wishes of so many stakeholders"
    in other words, give the masses something to dream about, and initiate compromises with those who really matter.

  3. #3
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    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    Offices on the lower 70 floors, a restaurant and observation deck on the 110th floor...is there any general concensus of what the remaining 39 floors will house?

  4. #4

    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    Let's face it, these won't be real floors.
    Like Time Warner Center or TWT advertised resp. at 80 and 90 floors.

  5. #5

    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    And this is important why?

  6. #6

    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    TWC really announced 80-90 floor?

  7. #7
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    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    Why have a tall building when you can't stand there and admire the view? *Better yet, where you can live there and work there.

    A radio tower or a spire being the tallest building is like saying you went to Sri Lanka - because you had a phone conversation with someone there.

  8. #8

    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    Hey FABB,
    I've been wanting to know about AOL Time Warner for a long time now. Im so interested in why they said it'd be 80 stories, but now im hearing 55. I would really like 80 stories, but i have a fear its not true. Do you know what's going on with that? By the way, i really need to know, so if fabb, or anyone know PLEASE email me at: veg_jon@hotmail.com Thanks.

  9. #9

    Default From Political Calculation, a Sweeping Vision of Ground Zero

    Quote: from NYC4ever on 8:34 pm on Mar. 3, 2003
    Hey FABB,
    I've been wanting to know about AOL Time Warner for a long time now. Im so interested in why they said it'd be 80 stories, but now im hearing 55. I would really like 80 stories, but i have a fear its not true. Do you know what's going on with that? By the way, i really need to know, so if fabb, or anyone know PLEASE email me at: veg_jon@hotmail.com Thanks.
    NYC4ever, if you are new to this forum, please take time to get familiar with existing topics, there are probably dozen of threads about AOL Time Warner. This particular thread is not about AOL Time Warner.

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