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[1]    Viewing Wall Proposed at Trade Center Site

Edward Wyatt April 18, 2002

City and state officials are considering a proposal to ring ground zero with a viewing wall that would let pedestrians stand at the site's edge and look inside the boundaries of the former World Trade Center, according to officials involved in the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. The viewing wall would not, however, allow people in cars passing by the site on West Street to see inside. As envisioned, it would eliminate the need for a public platform because people could look into the site from almost anywhere along eastern, northern and southern borders of the area. 

The viewing-wall proposal was presented last night to members of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's families advisory committee, which includes relatives of victims of the World Trade Center disaster. The proposal will also be presented to the residents' advisory committee, and comments from the two groups will be considered before a decision is made. Family members have also expressed interest in the possibility of including remains of unidentified victims in the permanent memorial to be built at the site. 

Jonathan D. Greenspun, commissioner of the mayor's community assistance unit, said yesterday that family members had expressed their interest in the idea during a meeting with the mayor on April 8. He said that the idea was "on the table," but that the mayor said the religious beliefs of victims' families as well as other sensitivities should be considered as part of any proposal. The idea for the design of a viewing wall has developed as representatives from city, state and federal agencies overseeing the work at the site have wrestled with how to begin the next phase of work there. Recovery of victims' remains and the cleanup of debris from the collapsed buildings is expected to be completed in the next four to six weeks. 

Already, restoration work has begun on subway tunnels and the PATH train. 
The Port Authority of  New York and New Jersey and the development corporation have been working with the office of Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on the viewing-wall idea, with assistance from representatives of New York New Visions, a group that has proposed ideas for redevelopment of the site and Lower Manhattan. 

According to people involved in the discussions, the proposed viewing wall would include panels containing history of the site and other information. The wall would also include places where tributes to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks could be left, and alcoves for people to stand so they would not block pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks along Church, Liberty and Vesey Streets.
Mollie Fullington, a spokeswoman for Governor Pataki, said the viewing wall
would "enable passers-by to observe the site, reflect and pay their respects, while retaining the dignity of this hallowed ground." 

[2]     'Blueprint' of Downtown's future unveiled    

By: Josh Rogers   April 17, 2002

The Lower Manhattan Devel-opment Corporation's board of directors last week voted to "eliminate West St. as a barrier" between Battery Park City and the Financial District and committed to restoring at least part of the street grid that the World Trade Center superblock replaced 30 years ago.

The board also voted to consider a series of transportation and other options including creating a Freedom Park and Museum on part of the ground zero site. 

Alexander Garvin, who wrote the now-approved, 11-page "blueprint" for Lower Manhattan redevelopment, says before this summer, officials will have to 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.

Garvin, the L.M.D.C.'s vice president of planning, design and development, said decisions on the three issues "have to come early, because they will determine everything else." 

There were no specifics on the retaining slurry wall, often called the bathtub, which protects the World Trade Center from flooding. The bathtub was badly damaged Sept. 11 and is being repaired. 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.

Garvin's report, approved April 9, 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."

The idea to eliminate the West St. or Route 9A barrier is more than just an option, but has been approved under the principles. Garvin, a former City Planning commissioner and 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; or build a platform over parts of the highway that would connect to mezzanine levels in B.P.C. Garvin said he did not know which of the three options would be likely to take the most time to build, or which would take the least.

Elliot Sander, Transportation commissioner during the early part of the Giuliani Administration, in a telephone interview, said that the tunnel option would clearly take the longest and be the most expensive and the platform option would be the cheapest and quickest. 

"There is no question that tunneling would by far take the longest and be the most expensive," Sander said.

Sander said a cost-benefit analysis would be needed to determine which is the best option. John Whitehead, L.M.D.C. chairperson, in a breakfast talk to business leaders over a month ago, did not mention the third option, but said the first two could be done at a cost of about $1 billion.

Sander, who is on the L.M.D.C.'s transportation advisory committee, said he agreed with the decision to make improving pedestrian access across West St. and restoration of part of the street grid as the top priorities. He said three options the L.M.D.C. is considering should also be given top priority: Redesigning the Fulton St.- Broadway-Nassau St. subway stations into a modern terminal with a possible connection to the Long Island Rail Road, building a pedestrian tunnel connecting this terminal to the Winter Garden in B.P.C. and all subway stations in between, and extending and improving the South Ferry subway station so that all subway cars could open at the station.

Other options the L.M.D.C. is considering include providing ferry service for L.I.R.R. commuters from Long Island City to Downtown, connecting the Rector St. N& R station with the nearby 1/9 station, rebuilding the W.T.C. PATH commuter station one block east to connect with these two subway lines or extending the PATH two blocks east to connect with all of the lines going to the Broadway- Fulton stations. 

Garvin said that "some of these are extremely expensive, some are not. Some can be done quickly, some will take years."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields criticized the report because it makes no mention of giving funds to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the proposed Second Ave. subway. Fields released a statement saying many of the options would help suburban commuters.

"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. 
Louis Tomson, L.M.D.C. president, said it was important to do projects that can be completed quickly rather than those that will take more than ten years to build, in an apparent reference to Second Ave.

The L.M.D.C. approved the guidelines before Mayor Bloomberg appointed some new members to the board [See article page 8], but Deputy Mayor Doctoroff said the city was consulted all along and the report is a reflection of the city's position. Doctoroff said the guidelines are an important first step.

"Once you put the box around things, the rest becomes easier," he said. "Getting to Lower Manhattan is important, as is getting around Lower Manhattan....[That's what has] stunted its growth for decades. The transportation issue will set the course for the next century."

Building something to last 100 years was the theme of the day last week as people connected to the L.M.D.C., including Whitehead and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seemed defensive about a New York Times editorial that said the agency was moving too slowly.

Whitehead said: "We can't be dictated by what the newspapers write.... Speed, while important, is not the essential quality of development. Quality is the essential part of development."

Later, with Bloomberg at his side, Whitehead added: "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."

President Bush has pledged $21 billion for the rebuilding effort, but much of that has either been spent on repairs or overtime costs, or has been committed to tax incentives.

Paul Crotty, who was the city's top attorney under Mayors Giuliani and Koch, says there is also a need to make sure all of the legalities are in order. The former corporation counsel and a member of the L.M.D.C. board, Crotty said he is concerned that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is the owner of the ground zero land. "The future of New York should only be decided by New York interests," Crotty said at last week's meeting. He declined to comment any further.

As for restoring at least part of the street grid, 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. 

Board member Madelyn Wils said restoring the grid was a "no- brainer" and said she expects developer Larry Silverstein to make public his design to rebuild Seven W.T.C. later this year so that Greenwich St. can be reconnected.

The principles adopted last week 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 of all of the plans, Whitehead said: "In the end the plan has to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle."

©Downtown Express 2002
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