Already, thoughts turn to rebuilding

At New York tower site, proposals range from memorial to skyscrapers

Terrorism Strikes America

The Nation

September 22, 2001|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

NEW YORK - The sudden disappearance of the World Trade Center has made Manhattan's cityscape seem unsteady, like a packed bookshelf missing its southerly bookend.

How to right that architectural imbalance - and the psychological one felt by people across the country - is a debate that is already under way, even as rescuers search for the remains of more than 6,000 people in the rubble.

Some people say the towers should be defiantly rebuilt, bigger if possible. Others call the area a gravesite and think the entire 16-acre space - among the world's most valuable real estate - should become a memorial.

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki have talked vaguely of rebuilding, but U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer says he wants "something grand." Former New York Mayor Edward I. Koch has called for a replica of the late 1960s design, while Donald Trump says anything built on the site should be a "soul-searching statement."

Architects see a chance to redevelop the entire area. "I think this is an opportunity to really correct a lot of ills in the lower west side of Manhattan," said Bruce Fowle, who is organizing a group of New York architects in an effort to make sure designers "are at the table when planning is done."

Yesterday, the man whose company took over the World Trade Center six weeks ago said he's interested in building four 50-story buildings on the lot where the towers once stood, 110 stories tall. He also envisions a memorial to those who died in last week's attack.

Real estate developer Larry A. Silverstein, who organized a consortium of buyers and finalized a $3.2 billion deal July 24 to lease the property for 99 years, told the Associated Press, "The people who have inflicted this upon us are clearly out to destroy our way of life. It would be a tragedy to allow them their victory."

Silverstein lost four employees in the disaster.

"I've never seen a valuable piece of real estate that's remained vacant for any length of time," said Steve Solomon, a spokesman for Silverstein.

Although Silverstein is a powerful figure in New York real estate, it's doubtful the decision is his alone. The land and buildings on the site were owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which leased them to Silverstein. That means both states, and the city, will be part of the planning process.

And because the towers were a symbol of the city and of world capitalism, the public, too, is likely to want to somehow participate.

"In reality, there are going to be a lot of people who have a say," said Dave Jamieson, a Port Authority spokesman. "Just because Silverstein Associates is talking about four towers, that doesn't necessarily mean that's what will be."

Jamieson said the Port Authority's 12 commissioners met yesterday but did not discuss plans for the site. "There's a general sense that people want to get going on this, but we've still got a rescue effort going and many other problems to deal with," he said.

It took about three years for Oklahoma City to decide on the memorial of bronze and stone chairs that now sits where the federal building once was.

Such arguing is "healthy for the city," said Charles Harper, who has chaired the American Institute of Architecture Disaster Response Committee for 30 years.

Pointing to the logo on the side of his engine, which pictures the twin towers, New York City firefighter Ed Monahan said, "Our command, special operations, we lost about 80 guys. They should rebuild it, and they should build it bigger if they can. Because if you don't rebuild it, they win."

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