Civic group criticizes attempts to change Libeskind plan
By KAREN MATTHEWS
Associated Press Writer
June 11, 2003, 3:04 PM EDT
NEW YORK -- Redevelopment power brokers are trying to water down Daniel Libeskind's World Trade Center plan by hiring different architects to design the buildings and possibly even raising the sunken memorial to ground level, a civic group said Wednesday.
"The entire world is watching what we do at this site, and business as usual simply won't cut it," said Robert Yaro, chairman of the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York.
Alliance members charged at a news conference at Pace University that developer Larry Silverstein has denied Libeskind an active role in the design process.
"The Libeskind plan was chosen as the result of an historic and inclusive public process," said Holly Leicht, director of design, planning and advocacy for the Municipal Art Society. "Attempts to dramatically change it undermine the public's trust in the rebuilding process that led to its selection."
Libeskind, whose design for a rebuilt trade center was chosen in February, is currently under contract to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., but his role in designing the actual buildings is unclear.
His spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday.
Silverstein, who signed a 99-year lease on the twin towers just weeks before they were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, said Tuesday that it has "not yet been determined" whether Libeskind will have a hand in designing even the 1,776-foot "Freedom Tower" that is to be his plan's signature building.
Speaking at a real estate trade show Wednesday, development corporation interim president Kevin Rampe said "a series of designers" would design the new trade center's buildings and "we'll end up really with something special in terms of diversity of design and the excellence of design that we've come to expect in New York."
The Civic Alliance also noted that retail developer Westfield Properties has brought legal action against the Port Authority, charging that the Libeskind master plan isn't sufficiently retail friendly, and that some downtown groups have been lobbying to raise Libeskind's sunken memorial plaza to ground level.
"The memorial space is clearly what distinguished the Libeskind plan from the other plans, and was the primary reason for its selection," said Ric Bell, executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects. "We understand that architecture plans evolve, but the critical ideas should not be altered."