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Ground zero 'blueprint' issued, benefits reach Delancey

 Josh Rogers April 10, 2002

The chief urban planner in charge of ground zero says by this summer, officials will decide the first of three major issues about Lower Manhattan's future: where and how to make transportation improvements, what will be the design process for a permanent memorial for the Sept. 11 victims and how the Hudson River "bathtub" retaining wall will be fixed.  Alexander Garvin, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's vice president of planning, design and development, outlined the three issues yesterday - a day that saw a flurry of World Trade Center-related activity. Garvin said decisions on the three issues "have to come early, because they will determine everything else."

After unanimously approving Garvin's 11-page "blueprint" of options for Lower Manhattan, the L.M.D.C.'s board of directors also voted to include Chinatown and Lower East Side residents in a proposed incentive package so that those who were living below Delancey and Kenmare Sts. last Sept. 11 and are still living somewhere in Lower Manhattan, would get a $1,000 grant. The plan requires final approval by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and by the L.M.D.C., which was set up by Gov. George Pataki last fall. But the agency now has equal input from the city since Mayor Mike Bloomberg added his first four appointees to the board, also on Tuesday. With the appointments, Bloomberg doubled the number of blacks and women on the board (to two and four, respectively) and named the board's first Hispanic and Asian members - answering a criticism made by City Councilmembers of all races that the board had too many white males. He also named a man he described as "Mr. Lower Manhattan," Carl Weisbrod, president of the Downtown Alliance and the person Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had once backed to be L.M.D.C. president.

Bloomberg did little however to defuse the demands of relatives of 9/11 victims who wanted a representative on the board. The mayor implied that he would not have named a family member even if he was given a few more appointments. While making the announcement at City Hall, Bloomberg said he would have named someone with knowledge of the biotechnology industry and someone with ties to cultural institutions and schools if given more appointments. He told angry family members Monday night of his plans not to name one of them.

At yesterday's press conference, Bloomberg said relatives will have a large voice in planning a permanent memorial and he was confident the family advisory panels set up by John Whitehead, L.M.D.C. chairperson, would serve that role.


Downtown's blueprint

Garvin's report is called "Principles and Preliminary Blueprint for the Future of Lower Manhattan," but for the most part, it reads like a list of options. When board member Frank Zarb asked, "what's the process to take us from where we are now, to reality?" Garvin said "we have to put meat on these bones."

L.M.D.C. member Paul Crotty said he was concerned that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns ground zero. "The future of New York should only be decided by New York interests," he said.

One idea that is not an option, but has been approved under the principles is to "eliminate West St. as a barrier" between Battery Park City and the rest of Lower Manhattan. Garvin, a former City Planning commissioner and a close ally of Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, said there are three ways to break the barrier: Depress the roadway in a tunnel; build an open-space pedestrian boulevard over the roadway, also known as Route 9A; or build a platform over parts of the highway which would connect to mezzanine levels in B.P.C. He said he did not know which of the three options would take the most time to build, or which would take the least.

The board also committed to restoring part, if not all, of the street grid that was eliminated with the construction of the World Trade Center 30 years ago. Garvin mentioned reconnecting Greenwich St., a north-south street, and extending Fulton St. west into Battery Park City, as the two streets at the top of his list.

Speaking about the wide range of transportation plans, Garvin said yesterday that "some of these are extremely expensive, some are not. Some can be done quickly, some will take years."

Other options under consideration include building a new transportation terminal in Lower Manhattan, rebuilding a permanent PATH station one or two blocks east of the original W.T.C. site to better connect with subway lines, extending the South Ferry subway station, building an east-west pedestrian tunnel, expanding ferry service from Long Island City to Lower Manhattan, and extending the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North into Lower Manhattan.
Borough President C. Virginia Fields released a statement criticizing the transportation plan because many of the options would help suburban commuters and the report makes no mention of giving funds to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the proposed Second Ave. subway.
"The report highlights new transportation alternatives that benefit few, while ignoring the benefits of a full-length Second Ave. subway - the most urgent transportation need in Manhattan," Fields said.

On the other hand, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, another big supporter of the subway line, did not criticize the L.M.D.C. yesterday; in fact he praised the board for extending the residential package into Chinatown and Little Italy. Deputy Mayor Doctoroff said the improvements to transportation to and around Downtown are essential because that's what has "stunted its growth for decades. The transportation issue will set the course for the next century." Louis Tomson, L.M.D.C. president, said it was important to do projects that can be completed quickly rather than those which will take more than ten years to build. Madelyn Wils, Community Board 1 chairperson and a member of the L.M.D.C. praised Garvin for his report before voting for approval.
Deputy Mayor Doctoroff said the improvements to transportation to and around Downtown are essential because [that's what has] stunted its growth for decades. The transportation issue will set the course for the next century.

'Bathtub'

There were no specifics on the retaining surrey wall, often called the bathtub, which protects the World Trade Center from flooding. The bathtub was badly damaged Sept. 11 and is being reported. There is general agreement that the Wall is safe for now, but some engineers believe it will need extra protection if the site is redeveloped. Garvin only said a decision in exactly what is required needs to be made soon.


Residential plan

In addition to extending the boundaries, the proposed changes to the residential incentive plan, the board added a family bonus of $750 or $1,500 to households with at least one child who move or stay in neighborhoods closer to ground zero. Families in the immediate impact zone, Zone 1, south of Chambers St. and east of Nassau and Broad Sts., would get an extra $1,500, and families in Zone 2, south of Canal and Rutgers St., would get $750.

The immediate impact zone 1 was extended to Nassau and Broad Sts., as C.B. 1 and Speaker Silver recommended. The changes adopt another C.B. 1 recommendation, which guards against landlords raising rents to eliminate the effect of the incentives. Renters are only eligible for the benefits if landlords keep rents at 90 percent of the level they were at on Sept. 11 in Zone 1, and 95 percent in Zone 2.

Zone 1 residents are eligible for up to $13,000 if they say Downtown for two years, and Zone 2 residents are eligible for up to $6,000.

The L.M.D.C. has estimated the maximum costs of the plan have risen from $225 million to $277 million if everyone takes advantage of the plan.

Christopher Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, said the changes for bonuses to residents move in the right direction, but he said Chinatown residents should be treated equally to those living closer to ground zero and that the plan should extend to families rather than households, since many Chinese families are doubled- and tripled-up in apartments.

"It's a good start," said Kui. "[But] a lot more needs to be done on the tenant side and also on the small business side."

New board members

Kui was happy that Bloomberg named Billie Tsien and other minorities to the board.

"It's a significant step in recognizing the need to have representation," said Kui. "With the new appointments we have a much more diverse board."

Tsien, an architect with Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates, said she intends to be a voice against only building large structures at the site.

"The buildings built there will most likely be driven by power and money, which usually mean architecture comes in third," she said after the press conference. "I'm a contrarian, an outsider to the group. That's why I am sort of daunted."

The other board members named were Sally Hernandez-Pinero, a private attorney and former deputy mayor under David Dinkins and a former executive with Related Companies; Stan O'Neal, president and C.O.O. of Merrill Lynch; and Weisbrod.

Memorial and 'Freedom Park'

The principles adopted yesterday reiterate the need for a permanent memorial, possibly to be designed by the winner of an international competition. One option is to include a Freedom Park and Museum. Garvin said the museum would be dedicated to "American ideals" and the park would be a link to museums, cultural institutions and tourist destinations throughout Lower Manhattan - possibly running along the Route 9A boulevard.

Speaking about the entire plan, Whitehead said: "There's a need for speed, a need for beauty but also, the need to do something we can afford to do with all the money that's available."


©Downtown Express 2002

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